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Mind-reading tech: Imperial College spinout receives £500K Innovate UK grant

Picture credits: Cogitat

Once considered a concept of science fiction, the notion of computers reading human thoughts is becoming increasingly plausible with the advancements made by visionaries like Elon Musk in the field of neural interfaces. However, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of a powerful billionaire implanting a chip inside their skull.

Cogitat, a spinout from Imperial College London has developed an AI-powered technology, which can read brainwaves without requiring invasive procedures such as drilling into the skull. The company’s non-invasive approach is already being utilised to aid stroke patients in their rehabilitation process and holds the potential to enable mind-controlled prosthetic limbs and even vehicles in the future.

Cogitat’s groundbreaking technology is bridging the gap between science fiction and reality, opening up new possibilities for harnessing the power of our minds.

Trials with NHS stroke patients

Now, Cogitat, which pioneers brain-computer interface (BCI) technology, has received a £500k Innovate UK grant in partnership with games developer, UNIT9. The grant from the national innovation agency will further the development of its virtual reality telerehabilitation platform to support stroke survivors’ recovery.

The Innovate UK (that also backed Aegiq and HexisLab in the past) grant will help Cogitat move into the next stage of its research and development and build its brain decoding software to be integrated into Unit9’s telerehabilitation platform ahead of trials with NHS stroke patients in early 2024.

Allan Ponniah, founder of Cogitat and a consultant with Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust said, “Innovate UK’s grant is vital to the next stage of our development as we believe our neurotechnology can be a valuable tool for the under-resourced stroke rehabilitation market. We have developed a way to decode brainwaves from the motor cortex with a wearable headset that links with virtual reality games to increase patient engagement and encourage the repetitive limb movements required for rehabilitation.”

Dr Simister, clinical lead for stroke at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH), added, “A hybrid model of therapy will be possible with Cogitat. A single therapist will work more efficiently by combining face-to-face review with remote observation and feedback via Cogitat’s gaming. Users engaging with the system will feel encouraged to participate in therapy more frequently and for longer periods. Overall, the ‘dose’ of therapy received will increase and lead to better recovery.”

BCI pioneer in the UK

Co-founded by Allan Ponniah and Dimitrios Adamos in 2020, Cogitat is one of the first to develop non-invasive BCI technology in the UK. It has developed AI technology to translate the brain’s motor cortex signals in order to control computer software like virtual reality games.

Cogitat’s work in BCI will revolutionise the care for patients with brain disorders, such as stroke, or limb disabilities. The company will make it possible to provide personalised physiotherapy programs that give patients a sense of valuable progress that will result in greater engagement in the exercises and a higher quality of life.

What is a brain-computer interface?

A brain-computer interface (BCI) is a revolutionary technology that establishes a direct communication pathway between the human brain and an external device, typically a computer or machine. It enables the exchange of information between the brain and the device, allowing users to control and interact with technology using their thoughts or neural signals.

BCIs hold tremendous potential in various fields, including healthcare, rehabilitation, gaming, and assistive technology. By deciphering and interpreting brain activity, BCIs can enable individuals with motor impairments to regain mobility, help researchers study the brain’s functioning, and offer new ways of interacting with digital systems.

Although BCIs are still in the early stages of development, ongoing research and advancements in neuroscience and engineering are paving the way for a future where our thoughts have the power to influence and interface with technology directly.

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