Brainwave technology could help Canadian soldiers fight mental illness
Daniel Bitonti, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, November 20, 2013 10:16AM EST
Technology that matches a patient’s unique brainwaves to psychiatric drugs could soon be helping Canadian soldiers who suffer from mental-health issues, with the technology already being tested on American military personnel.
PEER Interactive -- created by the California-based company CNS Response -- has collected the brainwaves of thousands of people and the way they’ve responded to different types of medications. Doctors using the technology can take a brainwave of a patient and compare it with how others with similar brainwaves have responded to various drug therapies.
The company says it’s “like a dating service, but instead of pairing personalities, it matches activity in a patient’s brain to the proper medication.”
“It was actually the creation of some psychiatrists in California. They decided they were tired of giving people medication without knowing how they would affect them,” George Carpenter, the CEO of CNS Response, told CTV’s Canada AM. “And they had 130 (drugs) to choose from. So what they decided was to actually measure the brain and correlate that with the outcomes they got for all of their patients.”
The technology is currently being tested on approximately 2,000 American soldiers at two military hospitals in what Carpenter says is one of the largest psychiatric clinical trials in years.
“The military really found us and they said ‘we really want to improve the odds of these drugs working,’” Carpenter said.
“The majority of hospitalizations in the military are mental-health hospitalizations,” he said, adding that about a million active soldiers in the U.S. have a mental-health issue.
Carpenter says he is meeting with Canadian military officials this week at the annual U.S./Canada Forum on Mental Health and Productivity in the hopes that Canada will take part in the trial.
The technology is rather simple to use:
• Patients first undergo a brain scan, called an EEG.
• A small cap is placed on the patient’s for roughly 20 minutes to scan brainwaves.
• The results are then plugged into the PEER database – which has recorded more than 36,000 unique clinical outcomes from 9,400 people – to see how people with similar brainwaves to the patient have responded to certain type of drugs.
The company says it’s much more efficient than the trial-and-error approach of matching a patient with medication.
The primary diagnosis among the American soldiers has been depression, but the company says the technology can be used to treat all mental-health disorders, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
According to Carpenter, patients diagnosed and treated using PEER show two to three times better outcomes than those being treated through trial-and-error.
And while Carpenter says PEER can certainly be used by physicians treating non-military personnel, the military has shown to be one of the company’s biggest supporters by investing heavily in the research.
“It’s a big problem … Even though it’s all of society, the military is really getting after the problem,” he said. “And that’s why we’re inviting the Canadian Forces to join, because we think the trial we’re doing now will be one of the largest psychiatric trials ever.
“And it will prove that, in fact, we can have a better outcome for these (soldiers). We owe them, these men and women.”