Massachusetts startup Elemind has raised $12 million to read brainwaves and treat people for sleep disorders, long-term pain, tremors, and to speed up learning rates. Clinical trials show the company’s wearable device can accelerate sleep up to 70% faster, reduce tremors in patients with physiological shaking up to 50%, and boost learning rates.
“We use a wearable neurotech device to read the brain in real time and intercept it in real time with something called neurostimulation,” Elemind co-founder and CEO Meredith Perry told me on a recent TechFirst podcast. “That’s using sound or light or vibration or electricity to stimulate the brain. And when we do that, we can actually guide the brain precisely, and that leads to a behavior change. So like a drug, but much smarter and without the side effects.”
MIT’s investment fund participated in the fundraise, and co-founder Dr. David Wang has a PhD in AI from MIT.
Elemind isn’t releasing details on its neurotech wearable device just yet, but it’s something like a soft headband that is comfortable enough to wear in bed.
The hardware engages in what Wang calls “constructive and deconstructive interference on your brainwaves,” but it doesn’t have to stimulate brainwaves directly to do so. Rather, it presents certain stimuli that your brain reacts to, thereby producing the desired result.
The company calls it noise cancellation for the brain.
“The brain is an electrochemical organ and we can measure brainwave activity on the outside of the brain using something called an EEG,” says Perry. “A brainwave is a biological oscillation and different brain states are characterized by different frequencies of brainwaves … if you’re alert, it’s going to be one frequency. If you’re tired and sleepy, it’s going to be another frequency. If you’re focused, it’s gonna be another frequency. And what we’ve learned is that by stimulating at certain times relative to the brainwaves, we can speed up certain frequencies, we can slow them down, we can amplify or suppress them. This is what neuromodulation is, and we’ve found that by changing the brainwaves themselves, we can actually change the state that someone’s in.”
The goal is external non-invasive treatment without resorting to pills or medications, which often have side-effects and may not precisely target only the negative condition.
Elemind cites five clinical trials and publications that support the effectiveness of their technology. That includes include pre-release (and therefore non peer-reviewed research) such as this study on sleep and insomnia as well as reviewed research such as this study on physiological tremors or another on learning. The company has been in stealth mode since 2019, so it has been working on the solution for several years.
Wang says AI is a big part of Elemind’s solution which will help detect and diagnose issues in real-time for long-term wearers, as well learn how to achieve optimum states of brainwaves faster over time.
“Each brain is unique, and constantly changing, so we leverage AI and ML to optimize stimulation parameters to guide the brain to the desired state the fastest,” he said in a statement. “You can think about it like noise cancellation for the mind – our technology uses phase-locking auditory stimuli to align precisely with the user’s brain waves and steer them to a different frequency associated with a different state.”
Over time, the company has visions of building an “app store for the brain” so people can download different solutions for varying conditions, symptoms, or desired states.
“The vision here is to be able to develop individualized treatments for different people for their different conditions, to allow them to be the most optimized versions of themselves at any given time,” says Perry.
Early investors besides MIT include Village Global, which is backed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Netflix’s Reid Hoffman as well as Bill Gates and 23andMe’s Ann Wojcicki, as well ad LDV Partners and Wharton’s Alumni Angel fund.