Rethinking Healthcare

Smartphone brain scanner monitors neural signals on the go

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Together with a low-cost EEG headset, the handheld touchscreen scanner creates 3D reconstructions of brain activity from the comfort of your home.

Your brain in the palm of your hand?

For the first time, a brain scanner powered by a cellphone lets you monitor your neural signals at home or on the go, New Scientist reports.

To create the fully portable Smartphone Brain Scanner, a team led by Jakob Eg Larsen at the Technical University of Denmark hooked up a commercially available EEG headset to a Nokia N900 (watch a quick video intro here).

An EEG, or electroencephalogram, monitors the electrical activity of the brain. Normally, it’s connected wirelessly to a USB receiver plugged into a PC. But with this new system, a phone provides the power.

  1. When you put on the headset and boot up the accompanying app, the headset transmits EEG data to a receiver module connected to the phone.
  2. Data is decrypted directly on the phone, filtered, and passed to a reconstruction module.
  3. This creates a real-time, simplified 3D model of the brain that lights up as brainwaves are detected.

The smartphone EEG allows researchers to study our brain signals away from labs and hospital waiting rooms and in more natural and comfortable environments. By cutting down the number of hospital visits, the system can also help people with conditions like epilepsy or ADHD.

Some other features:

  • You can rotate the image of the brain by swiping the touchscreen.
  • The screen can also display pictures or videos that’ll elicit brain responses.
  • The app can be connected to a remote server to study it more intensively; and these results can also be displayed on the phone.

But other researchers warn, while this home-based system is convenient, it can’t compare with the simulation and data-processing of more sophisticated medical devices.

The work will be presented at Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction (ACII 2011) conference in Memphis next month.

Via New Scientist.

Image: Jakob Eg Larsen

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure