Massachusetts startup Elemind has raised $12 million to read brain waves and treat people for sleep disorders, chronic pain, tremors and to speed up learning rates. Clinical trials show that the company’s wearable device can induce sleep up to 70% faster, reduce tremors in normal tremor patients by up to 50% and boost learning rates.
“We use a wearable neurotechnology device to read the brain in real time and monitor it in real time with something called neurostimulation,” Elemind co-founder and CEO Meredith Perry told me on a recent TechFirst podcast. “This is 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 behavior change. So like medicine, but much smarter and without side effects.”
MIT’s investment fund participated in the fundraising, and co-founder Dr. David Wang has a PhD in artificial intelligence from MIT.
Elemind isn’t releasing details about its neurotech wearable yet, but it’s something of a soft headband that’s comfortable enough to wear to bed.
The hardware engages in what Wang calls “constructive and destructive interference with your brainwaves,” but it doesn’t need to directly stimulate brainwaves to do so. Rather, it presents certain stimuli to which your brain reacts, thus producing the desired effect.
The company calls it noise cancellation for the brain.
“The brain is an electrochemical organ, and we can measure brain wave activity outside the brain using something called an EEG,” says Perry. “A brainwave is a biological oscillation, and different brain states are characterized by different brainwave frequencies… if you’re awake, it will be one frequency. If you are tired and sleepy, it will be another frequency. If you are focused, it will be another frequency. And what we’ve learned is that by stimulating at certain times relative to the brain waves, we can speed up certain frequencies, we can slow them down, we can amplify them or suppress them. This is neuromodulation, and we discovered that by changing the brain waves themselves, we can actually change the state that someone is in.”
The goal is external non-invasive treatment without resorting to pills or drugs, which often have side effects and may not exactly target only the negative state.
Elemind cites five clinical trials and publications that support the effectiveness of their technology. This includes pre-publication (and therefore peer-reviewed research) such as e.g this study about sleep and insomnia as well as revised research such as e.g this study in normal tremors or else in learning. The company has been in stealth mode since 2019, so it has been working on the solution for several years.
Wang says artificial intelligence is a big part of Elemind’s solution, which will help identify and diagnose problems in real time for long-term wearers, as well as how to achieve optimal brainwave states faster over time.
“Each brain is unique and constantly changing, so we leverage AI and ML to optimize stimulation parameters to drive the brain to the desired state as quickly as possible,” he said in a statement. “You can think of it as noise cancellation for the mind – our technology uses phase-locked auditory stimuli to precisely align with the user’s brain waves and direct them to a different frequency associated with a different situation.”
Over time, the company has visions of creating an “app store for the brain” where people can download different solutions for different conditions, symptoms or desired states.
“The vision here is to be able to develop personalized treatments for different people for their different conditions so they can be the most optimized versions of themselves at all times,” 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 Ann Wojcicki of 23andMe, as well as LDV Partners and the fund Wharton Alumni Angel.