Today was the NeurotechSF conference. (This conference is distinct from the SF chapter of NeuroTechX, but the name and topics are similar). The speakers came from various corners of industry, research, and non-profit organizations. This post includes some of my hand-picked highlights from the presentations. I’ve included brief summaries and links to relevant information about their projects. I’m excited to encounter so many projects in development!
Speaker: Dena Dubal
Dubal’s lab investigates the effects of the Klotho protein, which is implicated in increased levels of brain health. Humans who express higher levels of the Klotho protein live longer, demonstrate higher cognitive performance, and have more resilient brains battling Alzheimer’s Disease. As researchers develop a better understanding of the protein, it could be used in therapeutics. Here is a description of the potential applications for Klotho protein discoveries!
Digital Mental Health
Speaker: Steven Chan
Examples of modern mental health apps
- Tess: Affordable, quality mental healthcare using psychological artificial intelligence. Provides counseling for depression or PTSD via text message. Tess is currently being deployed in Lebanon to provide mental health services and emotional well-being to those displaced by the ongoing Syrian crisis.
- SPARX (descriptive article; homepage). SPARX guides the player through a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment. Players are initially asked questions that allow the computer to make an assessment of the player’s initial state, which is then used to decide an appropriate course of treatment. The game also walks the player through strategies for dealing with depression, anger and frustration, with the aim of building coping skills.
Three types of Mental Health Startups
- Communications and Coordination
- Extension of the Research Clinic
- Intervention monitoring
Speaker: Uri Magram
Sonogenetics uses genetic modification to stimulate specific neurons with ultrasound waves. Sonogenetics aims to fill a “sweet spot” in neuromodulation technology that both high specificity of stimulation and low invasiveness. Currently, they are experimenting in animal models using TRP-4 protein and monitoring responses with fluorescent techniques.
What’s next? Uri’s group wants to build a toolkit to stimulate different types of cells to control and study corresponding behaviors.
Speaker: Osh Agabi
Koniku makes “lab-on-a-chip” technology. It was founded by Osh Agabi in 2013 based on previous research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, and during his PhD studies in computational neuroscience/bioengineering at the Imperial College.
Example application: an agricultural drone with Koniku chemical-lab-on-a-chip technology can quickly identify scents through chemical traces in the air.
Koniku will host its first lab-on-a-chip developers conference during August 13-14th, 2016. You can register at www.Neurogrammer.com
DARPA Neural Engineering System Design (NESD)
Speaker: Phillip Alvelda
Through the NESD program, DARPA aims to create significantly higher-bandwidth interfaces to record and stimulate neurons. Their first targets will be the visual and auditory cortices in humans.
Why target the sensory cortices first? The sensory cortices provide physical accessibility, the best scientific understanding of neural encoding, they clearly demonstrate utility of scale and precision, the cortical areas are closest to high-precision stimulus, they complement other DARPA neurotech programs, and they have broad industry application beyond initial therapies.