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Tech to Manage Chronic Pain Developed by New Zealand-Based Company

An electroencephalography device that reads electrical activity in the brain that can be used at home has been developed by a New Zealand company. The device enables chronic pain patients to take control of their rehabilitation. The company aims to reduce the $14 billion cost of treating chronic pain in the country’s healthcare system.

Chronic pain occurs when nerves become over-sensitive and send warning messages to the brain caused by an ongoing injury or even when the original injury causing pain has healed. The device is developed to be a low-cost, easy-to-use EEG device that patients can use to track their progress in the comfort of their own homes.

Over the years, technology has been used to examine a person’s brain activity. An EEG is a test that detects abnormalities in your brain waves, or in the electrical activity of your brain. Electrodes, which are small metal discs with thin wires, are placed onto your scalp during the procedure. The electrodes detect tiny electrical charges that result from the activity of your brain cells. The charges are amplified and appear as a graph on a computer screen, or as a recording that may be printed out on paper.

Whereas the EEG device that is designed by this tech company is a wearable non-invasive helmet with electrodes that transmits brain wave data to the patients’ tablet or phone in a game format. Patients can play simple games, which are neurological exercises, that can help them change the electrical signals in their brain associated with pain. The games give patients’ positive reinforcements when their brain relaxes through sound.

For instance, one game involves keeping a hot air balloon in the air. The calmer you are, the higher the hot air balloon travels. Patients have a few options when choosing their games, such as a puzzle and a maze, as some may be easier for people to concentrate on than others. It tracks brain activity, so anytime someone relaxes, a ‘ding’ sound is heard as positive reinforcement that they’re doing the right thing. It is designed to be used for 35 minutes four times a week for eight weeks.

During a trial in the United Kingdom, 16 patients used the device during a lockdown, and the results were outstanding. Patients said that following the test, the swelling in their fingers had reduced and their migraines had completely ceased.

While the cost is not known yet, the developers planned on making the helmet affordable for patients to use at home and it could be prescribed by doctors next year. The developers added that the data will also be private and only accessible to the patient and clinician.

The EEG device will be sold to the healthcare sectors in New Zealand as early as 2022 if all test has been proven successful.

OpenGov Asia reported in an article that New Zealand had launched its Digital Tech Industry Transformation Plan for Ministerial very early on in 2019. The new approach to industry policy was aimed at growing more innovative industries in New Zealand and lifting the productivity of key sectors. While the country has a strong economic foundation, but its productivity has continued to fall behind its main competitors.

The long-term trend to move EEG out of the lab is thus advancing, and a wide range of prospects for better wearable and beyond wearable technologies, such as home-based electroencephalography, are now available (EEG).

Digital Health Technology is having a dramatic impact on medical research and clinical care. Innovative technologies, such as this EEG device, are emerging as cost-effective solutions to improve clinical care and facilitate the implementation of precision-medicine approaches in our present healthcare ecosystem.

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