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Portable Brain Recording Device & App


OBJECTIVE: Develop a portable, inexpensive, and easy-to-use electroencephalography (EEG) device and corresponding mobile application (app) for use by nontraditional audiences. The product will provide real-time, quantitative assessments of neural activity, utilizing display and analyses platforms people already own. DESCRIPTION: EEG technologies provide recordings of electrical brain activity with millisecond scale temporal resolution. These devices are used extensively in research and medical communities, including triaging for traumatic brain injury (TBI; Naunheim et al., 2010), because of their unparalleled temporal fidelity and non-invasive nature, using electrodes placed on the scalp. More recently EEG has been used in neuromarketing and to provide neurofeedback with brain computer interfaces to allow people to move objects or play computer games with their mind. Despite these advantages and applications of EEG, the devices and analysis software are too expensive to promote use by a wide audience. Current EEG devices are also unappealing for the general population, with gel-based electrodes and cumbersome software programs, and unwieldy for military operational use, with many recording electrodes and wires. Industry has recognized the need for a portable, easy-to-use EEG and a number of companies have developed prototypes. Many of these devices are plagued by high artifact in recordings and do not provide the fidelity of data needed for valid research and operational use. Portable EEG systems that do provide research quality data are prohibitively costly for use by a wide audience, costing over $25k per EEG system (Neuroscan). There is a great need for inexpensive and easy to use neural recording devices. Having EEGs in every classroom in America would stimulate the imagination of youth and promote science in technology. Teachers could design lesson plans in biology about the brain and sensory systems, and use hands-on demonstrations to engage students. Students could record their own brain activity and download the data to their iPad. Including EEGs in basic military first aid kits would also help with both medical diagnostics and clinical care for deployed soldiers. Portable EEGs could be used in the field with data sent to a corresponding app on a smartphone for near- instantaneous analysis. By funding a small business with expertise in developing a portable EEG, DARPA stands to make unprecedented strides in this technology. Focusing on reducing the cost and increasing the operational ease of use for both EEG recordings and analyses will revolutionize public- and military-based access to brain science. With public-access to brain recording devices and apps, the field of cognitive neuroscience will be able to take advantage of crowd-sourcing to solve complex neuroscience problems. What challenges one laboratory of neuroscientists or even a field of scientists cannot answer, people everywhere will be able to solve collectively (Ekins and Williams 2010, Howe 2008). PHASE I: Develop an initial concept design and model key elements for a low-cost, portable EEG system. Design a concept for an app for mobile devices that could wirelessly download EEG recordings and graphically display data. Phase I deliverables will include a technical report and brief describing the plan of approach and key technological milestones for the development of a prototype system. PHASE II: Develop, demonstrate, and validate the concept design created in Phase I for the low-cost EEG device. Construct and demonstrate the operation of a prototype for this device in a laboratory environment. In parallel to this EEG development, develop, test, and demonstrate validity of an EEG-compatible app for mobile devices. Required Phase II deliverables will include the prototype EEG sensor and compatible application, and a technical report and brief describing 1) the system design and test results for the EEG device, 2) the mobile device app, 3) and feasibility of use in future commercial and/or military applications. PHASE III: Many commercial entities would have interest in a low-cost, portable, and easy-to-use EEG. Potential marketplace applications exist in neuro-marketing, gaming, politics, and many other fields. In addition to Army medics, civilian doctors will also use this device for triaging TBI patients in hospitals. A great opportunity exists in the education field as well. Placing these devices in every school would provide an invaluable resource to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers in America and would provide an unprecedented opportunity for crowd-sourcing in the general population. A portable, low-cost EEG device and handheld app for analysis would aid all branches of the US military, with particular applicability to the US Army. Soldier medics with access to EEG on the battlefield would have improved diagnostic capabilities, essential to effective treatment. EEG has been shown effective as a quick triage method for TBI, and will have incredible application as such for the Army. REFERENCES: 1) Ekins S and Williams AJ. 2010. Reaching out to collaborators: crowdsourcing for pharmaceutical research. Pharm Res. 27(3):393-5. 2) Howe J. 2008. Crowdsourcing: why the power of the crowd is driving the future of business, New York, Crown Publishing Group. 3) Naunheim RS, Treaster M, English J, Casner T, Chabot R. 2010. Use of brain electrical activity to quantify traumatic brain injury in the emergency department. Brain Inj. 24(11):1324-
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