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Alphabet X Project Amber uses electroencephalogram to track depression



A prototype from Project Amber of the EEG headset.

Alphabet

Alphabet’s experimental team, X, has been quietly working on an experimental project to track symptoms of depression.

A blog post published on Monday details how a team of neuroscientists, hardware and software engineers, and product experts have been working on a series of prototypes for three years with the name “Amber Project”

;. The aim is to provide a more objective way of monitoring symptoms of depression.

Nearly half of the 60 million people living with mental health conditions in the United States do not have any form of treatment due to high costs and insufficient medical providers, and technology companies see muscle mass. Assembly to help. Joint venture-backed companies including Mindstrong and Ginger have raised millions of dollars in finance to use a variety of methods, including tracking how users interact with smartphone keyboards, to provides the opportunity to observe their mental health.

Obi Felten, the head of Laboratory X, wrote that Alphabet is based on a technology called EEG, or EEG, that measures patterns of electrical activity in the brain. The company developed new brain monitoring hardware, like a multicolored swimming cap, as well as tools for data analysis.

The company plans to make this technology available to the broader mental health community by publishing the code behind its hardware and software designs.

Using EEG to monitor brain activity is not a new idea. Many research labs around the world have taken advantage of this technology. But Felten wrote that Alphabet thinks it can make data easier to gather and interpret.

The Amber project initially focused on a test to diagnose depression and anxiety but left it after hearing that clinicians don’t really need such a tool. Instead, the team is focusing on using technology to “follow-up”, that is, grasp how patients travel between visits and even predict a future episode of depression.

However, that may not address the root of the problem, suggests Ginger CEO Russell Glass. Ginger started out building tools for diagnosing mental health conditions but has since revolved around providing users with affordable, online access to therapists and coaches. mental health staff.

“Measuring mental health to some extent is very important and we should use data,” Glass said over the phone. “But the problem is not about measuring and more about access to care.”

Glass says that even though there are better tools on the market to diagnose and monitor mental health conditions, that doesn’t necessarily mean that patients will get the treatment they need. In the US and many other countries, the shortage of mental health professionals is an ever-escalating crisis.

For the time being, this device is purely experimental and has not been approved for clinical use by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Alphabet said it will soon release a report with more research results.

Read more about the effort here.


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