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10 Non-invasive Neurotechnologies About to Transform Brain Enhancement and Brain Health


30,000+ sci­en­tists and pro­fes­sion­als gath­ered for the annu­al Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science con­fer­ence in Chica­go last month, prov­ing the grow­ing inter­est and activ­i­ties to bet­ter under­stand the inner work­ings of the human brain, and to dis­cov­er ways and tech­nolo­gies to enhance its health and per­for­mance.

Now, which of all those ongo­ing efforts are clos­er to touch­ing our lives, to empow­er con­sumers, patients and health pro­fes­sion­als?

To answer that ques­tion, we recent­ly exam­ined the world­wide land­scape of Per­va­sive Neu­rotech­nol­o­gy patents, giv­en that invest­ment in intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is a cru­cial sig­nal in the life-cycle of tech­nol­o­gy com­mer­cial­iza­tion. We paid extra atten­tion to non-inva­sive neurotech­nolo­gies which, being dig­i­tal, are scal­able and rel­a­tively inex­pen­sive, and that, being non-inva­sive, pose few if any neg­a­tive side-effects (the main excep­tion to this rule being #10 below, which is why we place it last).

Through our year-long analy­sis of thou­sands of patents, we uncov­ered ten inno­v­a­tive brain health and brain enhance­ment sys­tems on the cut­ting edge, that, in our esti­ma­tion, are like­ly to go main­stream over the next few years.

10 Non-invasive Neurotechnologies About to Transform Brain Health and Brain Enhancement

1. Big Data-enhanced diagnostics and treatments

As the costs of com­put­ing pow­er, cloud acces­si­bil­i­ty and hard­ware sen­sors dwin­dle, brain health sys­tems can lever­age mea­sure­ments tak­en from a far broad­er swath of the pop­u­la­tion than ever before pos­si­ble. And this analy­sis CNSResphelps under­stand pre­cise­ly where an individual’s read­ings lie on the dis­tri­b­u­tion curve of health to dis­ease, dri­ves the abil­i­ty to under­stand with nuance how one’s read­ings changes over time, and allows bet­ter dis­cern­ment of prop­er diag­noses and treat­ments based on the effi­ca­cy of treat­ments with oth­ers hav­ing sim­i­lar brain sig­na­tures.

Com­pa­nies like CNS Response and Advanced Brain Mon­i­tor­ing are already deploy­ing sys­tems that har­ness the pow­er of big data, exem­pli­fied by neu­ro­met­rics-dri­ven report sys­tems such as in the image to the right.

–> Patent Image: Data Illus­trat­ing Patient Stim­u­lant Respon­sive­ness Spec­trum, by CNS Response


2. Brain-Computer Interfaces for device control

Brain Com­put­er Inter­faces (BCIs) link the com­mands of our thoughts to the devices of the world. The glob­al BCI mar­ket is expect­ed to reach 1.5 bil­lion by 2020, of which 85% is esti­mat­ed to be non-inva­sive.

Com­pa­nies like Emo­tiv and Neu­roSky are advanc­ing the state of BCI tech­nol­o­gy, while oth­er orga­ni­za­tions are devel­op­ing the exter­nal sys­tems and ecosys­tems to inter­act with BCIs. Phillips has patents describ­ing home med­ical sys­tems that remote­ly mon­i­tor health via EEG, help­ing patients suf­fer­ing from ALS (com­mon­ly known as Lou Gehrig’s dis­ease), for exam­ple, to con­trol home appli­ances via BCIs.

Emotiv4–> Exam­ple: Philips-Accen­ture Project to Con­trol Home Devices via the Mind

  • User sends brain com­mands
  • Wear­able dis­play shows nav­i­ga­tion inter­face
  • Dig­i­tal app reads com­mands, con­nects devices
  • Smart prod­ucts are acti­vat­ed


 3. Real-time neuromonitoring (plus robotic aids)

AdvNeuroA good num­ber of com­pa­nies, includ­ing Medtron­ic, Neu­ropace and St. Jude Med­ical, are devel­op­ing sys­tems to active­ly mon­i­tor brain activ­i­ty and respond in real-time with appro­pri­ate treat­ments.

These sys­tems can dis­cern symp­toms lead­ing up to an unde­sir­able brain event (such as a seizure), and pro­vide pre-emp­tive treat­ments to mit­i­gate or alto­geth­er thwart epilep­tic activ­i­ty. Some mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems are cou­pled with oth­er assis­tive devices, such as robot­ic aids to enable patients suf­fer­ing from neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­ders (such as ALS) to regain lost motor con­trol.

–> Patent Image: Cou­pling Neur­al Stim­u­la­tion with Robot­ic Assis­tance.


4. Neurosensor-based vehicle operator systems

Sys­tems employ­ing neur­al detec­tion devices to mon­i­tor vehi­cle oper­a­tor alert­ness (or a lack­there­of) and take pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures with dri­ver stim­u­la­tion or vehi­cle autopilot/ shut­down sys­tems are described by mul­ti­ple patents.

Whether due to inat­ten­tive­ness (for exam­ple tex­ting while dri­ving) or drowsi­ness, new vehi­cle-inte­grat­ed sys­tems can assess real-time oper­a­tor fit­ness. The US Army, auto­mo­tive com­pa­nies like Toy­ota, start-ups like Freer Log­ic, med­ical device mak­ers and insur­ers are all patent­ing inven­tions address­ing this con­cern.


–> Patent Image: Vehi­cle Oper­a­tor Sys­tems Aug­ment­ed with EEG Sig­nal Pro­cess­ing 



 5. Cognitive training videogames

Soft­ware appli­ca­tions acces­si­ble online and via mobile devices include gam­ing sys­tems that tar­get spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive and/or emo­tion­al sys­tems of the brain.

Com­pa­nies like Posit Sci­ence and Lumos Labs have secured patent pro­tec­tion (and sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket trac­tion) on prod­ucts in this area. A patent recent­ly issued to Lumos Labs for enhanc­ing flu­id intel­li­gence and work­ing mem­o­ry through men­tal manip­u­la­tion of mem­o­rized objects is illus­tra­tive.


–> Patent Image: Can you deter­mine the pin­ball path after bumpers (818) dis­ap­pear?


6. Brain-responsive computing systems

As Microsoft CEO Sataya Nadel­la states:

We are mov­ing from a world where com­put­ing pow­er was scarce to a place where it now is most lim­it­less, and where the true scarce com­mod­i­ty is increas­ing­ly human atten­tion.

A recent study by Microsoft finds that 68% of ear­ly tech adopters and 67% of heavy social media users real­ly have to con­cen­trate hard to stay focused on tasks. So large tech com­pa­nies are patent­ing sys­tems to improve pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and work­er out­put, for exam­ple by using EEG sig­nals to rec­og­nize user’s men­tal state and tai­lor the com­put­ing expe­ri­ence.

–> Patent Image: Clas­si­fy­ing user-tasks based on brain­wave data


7. Virtual Reality treatments, especially in conjunction with EEG and/ or tDCS

Whether for treat­ing PTSD and pho­bias through expo­sure ther­a­py, or assist­ing sur­geons in the oper­at­ing room, vir­tu­al-real­i­ty is quick­ly gain­ing momen­tum.

Med­ical tech com­pa­nies such as Medtron­ic and Brain­lab, and con­sumer research firms such as Nielsen are build­ing sig­nif­i­cant IP port­fo­lios in the area. The fol­low­ing patent by Evoke Neu­ro­science shows the inter­play between vir­tu­al real­i­ty, EEG and tran­scra­nial direct cur­rent stim­u­la­tion (tDCS).


–> Patent Image: Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty (VR) Neu­rotech­nol­o­gy


8. “Mindful” wearables

Wear­ables are being designed to improve not just phys­i­cal health but men­tal Musewell-being as well. Med­i­ta­tion apps in tan­dem with con­sumer EEGs like InteraXon’s Muse  aim to help users build con­cen­tra­tion and self-reg­u­la­tion skills.

Even gen­er­al-pur­pose fit­ness wear­ables are start­ing to include men­tal health and train­ing appli­ca­tions. Jaw­bone (through its sub­sidiary Body­Media) has secured patents that con­sid­er phys­i­o­log­i­cal and con­tex­tu­al fac­tors.

–> Patent Image: Men­tal Health Appli­ca­tions of Wear­able Devices


 9. Collaborative cognitive simulations

These are sys­tems that focus on improv­ing learn­ing and skill acqui­si­tion across the extend­ed work­force through online inter­ac­tive plat­forms and cog­ni­tive sim­u­la­tion mod­els. Human cap­i­tal-inten­sive orga­ni­za­tions such as AT&T and Accen­ture, and start-ups such as Applied Cog­ni­tive Engi­neer­ing, are devel­op­ing mul­ti­ple appli­ca­tions in the area, and secur­ing rel­e­vant intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty rights.

–> Patent exam­ple: Sys­tem method and arti­cle of man­u­fac­ture for cre­at­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive appli­ca­tion shar­ing


10. Electrical and magnetic brain stimulation

These are tech­nolo­gies that can influ­ence brain Thync activ­i­ty via mag­net­ic fields or elec­tri­cal impuls­es, and they are becom­ing increas­ing­ly com­mon. Mul­ti­ple hos­pi­tals and clin­ics already offer treat­ments based on brain stim­u­la­tion, DARPA has award­ed con­tracts to devel­op sys­tems to aug­ment mem­o­ry with tar­get­ed elec­tri­cal stim­u­la­tion tech­niques, and con­sumers can buy wear­able devices claim­ing to induce an array of brain states from calm­ing to ener­giz­ing.

–> Patent Image: Wear­able Trans­der­mal Elec­tri­cal Stim­u­la­tion Device

This patent comes via Thync, an ear­ly-stage com­pa­ny backed by Khosla Ven­tures. Oth­er com­pa­nies push­ing the bound­aries of brain stim­u­la­tion tech­nol­o­gy include St. Jude Med­ical, Brain­lab and Neu­ro­net­ics.


Now that we have reviewed some of the excit­ing neu­rotech­nolo­gies ahead, we need to step back for a sec­ond. Which of these tech­nolo­gies will deliv­er the most val­ue, and in what con­text? How will inno­v­a­tive assess­ments and ther­a­pies be val­i­dat­ed, adopt­ed, reg­u­lat­ed and com­mer­cial­ized? How do we max­i­mize the ben­e­fits and min­i­mize the risks?

2015SharpBrainsVirtualSummit_webThose ques­tions con­sti­tute, in essence,  the Agen­da for the 2015 Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit tak­ing place next week, where over 200 pio­neers and experts will gath­er around a vir­tu­al table to dis­cuss the lat­est, the next, and how to har­ness it all to improve work and life.

Please con­sid­er join­ing us!


– Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, named a Young Glob­al Leader by the World Eco­nomic Forum, runs Sharp­Brains, an inde­pen­dent mar­ket research firm track­ing health and well­ness appli­ca­tions of brain sci­ence. He is an inter­na­tion­al­ly-known speak­er and expert, and has been quot­ed by The New York Times, The Wall Street Jour­nal, New Sci­en­tist, CNN, and more.

– Nikhil Sri­ra­man is a patent attor­ney admit­ted to prac­tice before the Unit­ed States Patent and Trade­mark Office (USPTO). Nikhil has held posi­tions at the USPTO, IP law firms and in-house at For­tune 500 com­pa­nies. He cur­rent­ly serves as Pri­mal’s Vice Pres­i­dent of Intel­lec­tu­al Prop­er­ty, as well as Sharp­Brains’ Intel­lec­tu­al Prop­er­ty Ana­lyst.

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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