Entrepreneur Rod Greder wants to help developing brains stay in the game.
Do you remember any of the specific details of your drive to work this morning? How about the last email you read?
There are many times throughout the day where the human brain enters autopilot mode where we just go through the motions, completing medial tasks and barely registering information that we receive as our minds wander.
This is just a natural part of life, but for kids with learning disabilities such as ADHD, it is debilitating and can be a real impediment in the classroom. There are measures in place to assist people with these afflictions, but serial entrepreneur Rod Greder finds them unsatisfying.
He is now heading up an early-stage Minnesota company called Awear Technologies, which is developing a neural hardware device that uses EEG capabilities to measure brain wave patterns and provide corrective feedback. By detecting when and where they stopped paying attention, students and their educators can pinpoint problematic areas and make necessary adjustments to stay on track.
The product is currently in prototype stage, but is being drawn up as a piece of functional eyewear in the same aesthetic category as Google Glass. The headset includes sensors that sit on the forehead, detecting patterns and electrical activity in the brain, and provide immediate real-time neuro-feedback.
Presently, treatment for such disorders typically involves drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, but Greder notes that this solution is ineffective for up to 30 percent of users. Even when they do work, the medications have side effects and don’t help students at times they’re not in the system. The most common behavioral treatments are brain-training games designed to combat attention deficit, but Greder states that the key issue with this approach is that it only conditions students to overcome their issues in a high-stimulus setting (playing a computer game is a lot different than sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture).
“Our feedback solution is safe and non-invasive. Once you change the neural connection, the child learns how to pay attention in low-stimulus environments, and that capability becomes a habit. They can pay attention, control their hyperactivity and better control their impulses whether on medication or not,” he says. “A sustained improvement.”
“We estimate a market size of about $750 million just in education for this solution,” says Greder, a longtime product development guy and former teacher who posits that some 10 million students suffer from ADHD and other executive dysfunction issues.
Awear is working with Koronis Biomedical Technologies, based in Maple Grove, for product development, which is being funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Education. Several subject matter experts from the Institute of Child Development and the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Minnesota have been incorporated to aid in the process.
Greder and his team hope to begin significant beta testing in 2014 with a customer called Learning RX that they have been collaborating with.
They project a large-scale product launch in 2015 or 2016, and expect that education is only the tip of the iceberg. Down the line, Greder sees utility in his product for people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, autism and addiction problems.