Local Company Touts Mobile Brain Scanner

La Jolla-Based NeuroVigil Says iBrain Can Help Read Thoughts

A local company has released a stunning finding after performing some unique tests on the human brain, including that of famed physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking.

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Almost completely paralyzed from Lou Gehrig's disease, Hawking uses face muscles to operate a voice machine.

Hawking's face muscles are slowly failing, but soon he may not need them, thanks to technology by La Jolla-based NeuroVigil.

"I'm very enthusiastic about it," NeuroVigil Chairman Philip Low said of the iBrain.

Low created the iBrain, the world's first mobile brain scanner. Low, who first met Hawking at a conference, said he believes it can read Hawking's thoughts.

The iBrain fits right over the head and features three electrodes that connect very easily.

This past summer, Low flew to Cambridge, England, and Hawking agreed to wear the device. He was asked to think very hard about doing various tasks while his brain waves were tracked.

Using a special algorithm to convert the wave patterns, Low learned each of those thoughts produced its own distinct brain wave patterns, which can be mapped out.

Eventually, Low believes a computer could read the patterns and speak Hawking's thoughts.

"We'd like to find a way to bypass his body, pretty much hack his brain," said Low.

That ability to decipher each person's brain wave patterns could have major implications.

"Pharmaceutical companies can now fine-tune the drugs for individuals. This is the first step to personalized medicine," Low said.

iBrain is also being looked at as a possible way to monitor and diagnose a number of conditions -- from sleep disorders, depression and neurological disorders, to autism and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"This is very exciting for us because it allows us to have a window into the brain. We're building technology that will allow humanity to have access to the human brain for the first time," said Low.

NeuroVigil, a small company of about 11 employees, has received a big part of its funding from winning awards.

Low said because doctors can monitor the device remotely, it could also save a lot in medical costs.

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