The study of sleep has been a cumbersome affair. Test subjects must spend the night on a laboratory bed, hooked to machines by over a dozen leads. The next day, a technician scores the machines’ output by hand, categorizing each 30-second interval by stage of the sleep cycle.
Philip Low, seeking a better way, created an algorithm that can classify sleep stages using data from just a single EEG lead. In 2007 he founded NeuroVigil, a startup based in La Jolla, CA, that manufactures a sleep-monitoring device based on the technology.
The device is small enough to be worn on a headband, so subjects can sleep at home rather than at a clinic. To make life even easier for subjects, the company is developing a version of the device that gathers data and beams it to a subject’s cell phone, which can then send it wirelessly to NeuroVigil for analysis.
Pharmaceutical companies use the device to watch for brain-related side effects when testing therapies for disorders of the central nervous system. NeuroVigil has used these trials to amass a database of readings from patients with particular diseases. Low hopes that by mining this database, he will discover EEG signatures in the data that might warn of conditions like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, or Parkinson’s before symptoms appear. –Jocelyn Rice
Dreamcatcher: Modeled by Philip Low, this version of NeuroVigil’s iBrain records EEG data and transmits it to the company by phone. The iBrain device is small enough to be worn on the head (here on Low’s head). A cell phone (in Low’s right hand) can relay EEG data to NeuroVigil for analysis. This prototype uses off-the-shelf Bluetooth transmitters (Low’s left hand) to send data to a cell phone.
Credit: Misha Gravenor