In 2014, the researchers at Starlab made headlines when they achieved the first known realisation of brain-to-brain (B2B) communication between humans.Starlab's mission is to transform science into technologies with a profound positive impact on society. Their main areas of work lie in the Space and Neuroscience sectors, two key areas for the 21st century with a common element: the increasing availability of streams of information. Starlab Neuroscience Research are applying findings to explore new technologies and techniques in wireless neuromonitoring and neuromodulation with the potential for real world impact as products and services. Recent developments at Starlab, and spin-off Neuroelectrics, in wireless, easy to use, noninvasive neuro-monitoring and neuro-modulation technologies have opened the door to a range of new research directions and applications. Wireless neuro-monitoring has led to new applications in brain-computer interfaces, disease biomarkers, emotion recognition and more, while neuro-modulation shows promise in clinical applications including post stroke rehabilitation, traumatic brain injury, depression and cognitive enhancement.
Stephen Dunne, Director of Neuroscience Research at Starlab, will be presenting at the Future Technology Summit, in London on 24-25 September. We caught up with him ahead of the summit to hear more about Starlab and exciting new developments in neuroscience.
Tell us a bit more about your recent developments at Starlab in Neuroelectrics.
In the last 2 years we have seen our technology for monitoring and modulating the electrical brain move loser to clinical practice and open up new areas of research. Our Startim device is the first to allow both monitoring and modulation of the brain using the combination of EEG and transcranial current stimulation, coupled with electric field modeling and a unique multi-site set-up, which allows us to tackle new problems such as closed-loop and personalised stimulation. Some of the things we and others are now applying the technology to include biomarkers for Parkinson's disease, post-stroke rehabilitation, traumatic brain injury, brain computer interface, brain-to-brain communication and conciousness.
What are the key factors that have enabled recent advancements in neuroelectrics and neuroscience?
In our case it has been a combination of two things: a truly multidisciplinary approach and the technology maturing to the point where we can get it out of the lab. We, like many others in the field now, are a group of physicists and engineers working on neuroscience problems. This multidisciplinary point of view brings us in different directions and leads to new ideas.
The technology itself has been available for decades but poorly understood, very limited in application, difficult to use and tied to the lab, this has all changed now and we can carry out more robust, reproducible experiments almost anywhere. This has led teams from over 35 countries to work with us on a wide range of new applications.
What areas will be impacted the most from advancements in research?
In the short to mid-term we see a revolution in brain health and how we mange it. Our goal is to provide real-time, closed-loop systems that monitor and modulate brain activity to correct pathological activity. In combination with other technologies such as neurogames and VR we will finally have the tools for personalised treatment.
In the longer term we see a revolution in how we think about such fundamental questions as conciousness and perception.
What developments can we expect to see in neuroelectrics in the next 5 years?
The technology will shortly move into clinical trials for a candidate indication and will hopefully soon after move in to clinical practice. Once this happens we will quickly expand to other indications. We are also exploring other non-medical application areas such as sport and user state/experience.
Which areas do you feel could benefit from cross-industry collaboration?
As mentioned above everything we do depends on a multi-disciplinary approach so cross-industry collaboration is our default mode. Health and pharmaceutical are obviously key for us but we also collaborate with people in sport, entertainment, culture, education, automotive, aerospace and security.
What advancements excite you most in the field?
Closely related to our technology, the combination of video games and neurotechnology will be very powerful. Adam Gazzaley at UCSF, one of our advisers, is a leader in this field and I think we will see some ground breaking research come out of this work.
A bit further out time wise I think the work of Giulio Tononi and others on Integrated Information Theory as a way to understand conciousness will have an enormous impact if we can apply it in real world scenarios.
Stephen Dunne will be speaking at the Future Technology Summit in London on 24-25 September. Other medtech speakers include Sabine Hauert, Lecturer in Swarm Robotics, University of Bristol; Juan Moreno, Head of the Human Locomotion Laboratory, Cajal Institute; and Elaine Warburton, CEO & Co-founder, QuantuMDx.