mBrainTrain is developing a system that could be used in treating Alzheimer and Parkinson diseaseBY Jovana Milićević ON April 1
What if we could track mental activities, control signals and give bigger control to certain part of the brain? What if system that does this is completely mobile, easy, and you can track mental activities on your tablet or laptop?
And what if we tell you that behind this project is domestic startup which is recently rewarded as the best tech innovation?
mBrainTrain is startup started by Bogdan Mijović, Ivan Gligorijević and Maaeten De Vos.
They met in Luven, Belgium, while they were on their PhD studies in a group for biomedical signals. As one of co-founders, Ivan Gligorijević, told us, Luven is where they got to know most of physiological signals from people, that can be trackable via different sensors, including EEG signals as well.
In Belgrade, they were joined by the fourth co-founder, Dejan B. Popovič, professor at the Faculty for Electircal Engineering in Belgrade and Aalborg, Denmark, with great experience in this area.
They were attracted to find out how brain reacts to external stimulations when men is in free environment, and not in hospital or other lab conditions. It turned out that there is no system that can provide these information.
In consultations we came to conclusion that we can build a system which does that – that there are no technical obstacles. We only need money, time and some partners with infrastructure here and there. We made contact with professor Popović who works on biomedical engineering and we decided to found a company – mBrainTrain (mobile Brain Training).
Not long afterwards, they heard that Innovation Fond of Republic Serbia is giving small grants for best innovation projects, they applied and got it.
From that moment on, there has been more than a year that they are working on a device called Smarting.
System is made of a cap with electrodes which records EEG activities, in other words, brain waves, and device for their enhancement, basic processing and wireless transmission to PC or tablet, where these signals are further processed and showed. mBrainTrain also developed a software for the device and for the computer.
We are making a device which records brain activities and in some form displays it to the person on the screen of computer or tablet. It gives neurofeedback, which is useful because a person can adjust or change their activities if they see in real time the results of their brain activities. If there is a task – let’s say user is playing a video game, adaptation which he makes will be directed to completing the goal of game or task.
The users are world leading laboratories
Smarting gives an opportunity through the control of signals, to make bigger control on certain part of brain, which further enables training this part of brain after certain neurological diseases.Currently, the biggest focus is on the stroke.
Our system can be used for other “games” with brain as well – fighting attention disorder with kids (ADHD), Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases, for so called healthy aging, where you can force activities of your brain with daily training sessions and “don’t allow your brain to get old”. These are just some applications of our product, there are much more of them.
Product is made for labs which are working on neurofeedback and neuromonitoring, says Ivan. Till today they sold 7 devices – 4 in Serbia, 2 in Germany and 1 in Belgium.
They are currently in the process of certification, which is needed for selling in EU.
As initial users, we marked top class labs that are working on neurofeedback, neuromonitoring, epilepsy etc. They showed desire for our Smarting during our investigations, which has multiple significance for us. First, they are our initial users, and they are big enough market to make our idea sustainable. On the other hand, their verification is needed for phase 2 of our project – which is making our system usable as home device for neurological rehab.
Real competition on the market is in the similar phase, because this type products are mostly divided on expensive medical equipment and cheap EEG equipment with low quality used in entertainment industry. First, expensive and clumsy, is not good for using in free environment and second one can’t respond to all of the needs.
Our device is by quality close to the medical equipment, and by price is between these two groups.
Don’t want to sell themselves cheaply
mBrainTrain is currently on the end of financing from the Innovation fund and they are not planning direct investments in next period (6-10 months), but to finance their projects from selling of first product.
Scalability is right now hard to prove to the investors – there are no clear numbers/warranties to whom massive numbers of devices can be sold. There is a question of legality and laws in Europe, insurance companies are not yet financing this kind of “home” devices. That is changing, in Holland and soon in other EU countries, they are making laws which are supporting this kind of product. We want to use time to prove ourselves on the market and welcome this trend ready. Then we can scale. We don’t want to “sell ourselves cheap” before that.
Their work is recognized, they recently won a competition for best innovation in Serbia, on competition with more than 130 teams.
In 2013 we, as team Brainiacs, with Smarting took part in the competition for best innovation in Serbia. Between 130 teams, we were chosen for the final 6 and then we won. Competition was broadcasted on national television, and jury was made from significant experts from national institutions, ministers etc.