The fourth issue of astrocyte* newsletter is here. It covers:
My neurotech reading list
a) Tech Stack: BCI materials, graphene, hydrogel; hybrid stimulation - ultrasound/optical + genetical; other themes;
b) Data Science: EEG cleaning and DL applications review.
a) Investments: invasive BCIs, an app store of brain data, CES.
My interpretations/comments are in italic.
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I. Reading List
Elon Musk’s Neuralink is being outperformed by this Spanish graphene startup - a bit punchy headline but a great article that highlights the importance of different industries coming together for making progress in neurotech.
Innovations come from everywhere, so happy to see a European startup working on neurotech. Also, if you do a neurotech startup try to learn as much as you can about adjacent fields - materials science, quantum computing, etc. Progress in these industries will affect your progress.
Another take on materials for BCIs and an attempt to solve the foreign body response - Adaptive and multifunctional hydrogel hybrid probes for long-term sensing and modulation of neural activity
New tool activates deep brain neurons by combining ultrasound, genetics - sonothermogenetics - noninvasive, cell-type-specific activation of neurons in the brain of mammal by combining ultrasound-induced heating effect and genetics.
That feeds into my previous comment on neurotech and adjacent fields. I’ll not be surprised if a successful neurotech startups will not only combine imaging modalities, but combine them with genetics, or other forms of interacting with the brain.
Another interesting work on nerve cells modification -Viral-mediated transduction of auditory neurons with opsins for optical and hybrid activation. ‘This work examines optical activation of auditory neurons following optogenetic modification via AAV injection in two species (mouse and guinea pig)’.
Wireless Power Delivery Techniques for Miniature Implantable Bioelectronics - a great overview of wireless power options for implanted bioelectronic devices.
We need neurotech to be wireless if we expect it to be adopted by consumers
These are great examples of what kind of tech allows a very high resolution - Microscale Cortical Activity Recorded for the First Time & Large-scale neural recordings with single-cell resolution in human cortex using high-density Neuropixels probes
Cortical response to naturalistic stimuli is largely predictable with deep neural networks. ‘Naturalistic stimuli, such as movies, activate a substantial portion of the human brain, invoking a response shared across individuals. Encoding models that predict the neural response to a given stimulus can be very useful for studying brain function… We demonstrate how incorporating this joint information leads to remarkable prediction performance across large areas of the cortex, well beyond the visual and auditory cortices into multi-sensory sites and frontal cortex’. Here’s a tweet.
Deep learning applied to electroencephalogram data in mental disorders: A systematic review - This article reviews how DL techniques have been applied to electroencephalogram (EEG) data for diagnostic and predictive purposes in conducting research on mental disorders.
Automated EEG cleaning - A comparison. - ‘… four algorithms that are actually easily available and simple to use with MNE-Python, which are AutoReject, the Riemannian Potato, ASR, and xDAWN’.
II. Startup/Corporate News/Other Announcements
- Elon Musk’s brain computer start-up raises $205 million from Google Ventures and others (🇺🇸) - interestingly Google Ventures participated and supported this invasive tech, while Facebook canceled its support of an invasive BCI research at UC San Francisco. Also, notably, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund invested, while Thiel earlier invested in Blackrock Neurotech, a competing company.
Paradromics Raises $20MM in Seed Funding Led by Prime Movers Lab to Advance Brain Computer Interfaces (🇺🇸) Here’s why Prime Movers Lab invested:
- Omniscient Neurotechnology raised $30 million to create brain maps to aid surgeries and therapeutics (🇦🇺). The vision is to go further than connectome - ‘We want to be the Google or app store of brain data’ - says Stephen Scheeler, the CEO, who previously led Facebook in Australia & New Zealand.
- Belfast-based Neurovalens raises £5.1 million to treat conditions such as anxiety, obesity and insomnia (🇬🇧) - ‘the Northern Irish company is developing technology that influences the brainstem and hypothalamus in a non-invasive way to cure or treat neurological diseases, without the need for implanted electrodes’.
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