A company based in Barcelona has developed a soft helmet which can examine brainwaves in order to diagnose and treat various conditions, including depression and strokes. This cloth cap, which has been produced by Neuroelectrics looks like a cross between a Soviet cosmonaut’s headgear and a swimmer’s cap, but features a network of wires powered by an electronic pack, which can be used to stimulate the brain. The developers hope that by stimulating the brain in this way, it will be possible to identify and treat depression and strokes, with the ultimate aim of turning the helmet into a tool which can be used by patients themselves at home.
Dubbed the ‘brain fitbit’
The device works by monitoring and examining brainwaves, the small electronic pulses that are fired between the nerve cells in the brain. However, it goes one step further and can also be used to treat the condition, by stimulating the brain with a low electrical current via the electrodes contained in the cap. The cap is secured on the patient’s head before electrodes are strategically placed in a specific pattern according to the medical condition.
How the treatment works
The treatment is given via a low electrical current which is delivered to the identified area of the brain. It lasts approximately 20 minutes and will be repeated over several sessions. Patients don’t feel anything during the treatment, other than perhaps a mild itching sensation. However, it’s been shown to have a positive effect on patients suffering from stroke, when used in conjunction with physical therapy. What’s more, studies show that if this kind of treatment is carried out in combination with other therapies, the brain can actually be taught to behave in a different way.
An expensive form of treatment
The caps are used in Europe for the treatment of stroke, depression and pain arising from injuries to the nerves, however at a cost of 10,000 euros they’re beyond the financial budget of most patients plus, to use the cap at home, they would have to be monitored remotely by a physician.
Co-founder and chief executive of Neuroelectrics, Ana Maiques explained that the motivation for the project came around as a result of trying to better understand the brain, however she does agree that there’s still a lot more work to be done. She also admits that the development is slow, but there is the potential there to help sufferers of stroke and depression.