MAKING (BRAIN) WAVES
New technology taps the power of the human brain
In an extension of the quantified self movement, recent years have seen the growth of a health hacking movement as youth go outside the established system to customize their approach to wellbeing. The brain’s role in wellness is a particular point of interest, with 70% of Gen Ys saying people can’t call themselves healthy if they don’t pay attention to their mental health. Now, new pioneers are pushing the limits of what’s possible in the space, taking the concept of “mental health” to new heights.
No stranger to startups, Braintree founder Bryan Johnson is strengthening his commitment to build a better world with Kernel, a company that aims to unlock the power of the human brain. Johnson is currently foregoing outside investment to rely on his own funds and thus own business decisions to forge the company, which will build hardware and software to augment human intelligence—specifically, to improve mental function for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Kernel will create a neuroprosthetic device to repair cognitive impairment by enabling communication between brain cells that are attacked by such diseases. Johnson also invested in Human Longevity Inc. to fight Alzheimer’s, inspired by his stepfather, who shows early signs of the disease.
The BrainCheck app is an at-home method for checking for signs of a concussion or onset of dementia. Founded by a neuroscientist and run by a CEO with a Ph.D. in biological informatics, BrainCheck’s assessment is adapted from the method accepted by doctors for evaluating concussion patients in person. Over time, the the app can also detect the development of dementia in users. Though BrainCheck cannot officially produce a diagnosis, the ease of use makes it convenient for families to use at home before deciding to see a doctor.
Even President Obama is in awe of the system developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and National Science Foundation at the University of Pittsburgh to give a paralyzed American a working arm. A new kind of prosthetic, the robotic-like arm is mounted next to the wheelchair of Nathan Copeland, who is the first person to use the innovative system. Connected with a brain implant, Copeland is able to fully operate the arm with his mind, as well as “feel” the sensation of touch from others, giving hope to others with similar physical impairments.