European Mental Health Week: Discover 4 EIC-funded innovations using technology to ensure mental wellness
Globally, it is estimated that one in four people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. Despite the growing awareness of the impact of mental health problems, COVID-19 has disrupted mental health services, and the budget for their treatments remains small in many countries. From 10 until 16 May 2021, the European Mental Health Week is putting a spotlight on mental health issues during the pandemic and beyond. Multiple entrepreneurs and researchers are also focusing on treatments and services to approach mental disorders. From plug n’ play devices to non-invasive brain stimulation tools, discover how EIC-funded innovators are revolutionising mental health treatments.
PlatoScience: hi-tech depression treatment to the masses
Depression touches a growing number of people each year, affecting more than 264 million people worldwide. The Danish startup PLATOSCIENCE has created the first plug n’ play brain-stimulating headset for personalised at-home treatment of depression to address this mental health disorder. The device, PlatoCure, uses three fixed, programmable electrodes built into an adjustable headset configured for each patient’s head.
The patent-protected device is linked to an app, which also collects data that health practitioners and psychotherapists can use, which provides predictive analysis to fine-tune treatment programmes. PlatoCure can also scan the brain using a common electrode-based technique known as an electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures the brain during stimulation. The SME received an EIC Accelerator Grant from the European Innovation Council to establish partnerships with relevant stakeholders on an international level in the medical segment, set up a regulatory strategy and develop a clear commercialisation strategy.
Virtual Times: improve time distortions with a VR game
The main goal of VIRTUAL TIMES is to develop and provide a game based on virtual reality technology. MetaChron will allow studying time experience including experiential, behavioural and neural measures and will enable the manipulation of time experience based on robust and user-friendly VR research scenarios. This innovative neuroadaptive technology will manipulate and improve distortions of the sense of time and core symptoms of mental health conditions, including depression, schizophrenia and autism.
The research project is conducted by Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH (JÜLICH), Psious, Julius-Maximilians Universität Würzburg (UW), Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health (IGPP), INSERM Unit 1114, and the University of Helsinki (UH), and received an EIC Pathfinder grant in 2019. VIRTUALTIMES will provide “MetaChron” as a diagnostic tool and innovative mental health technology. The market value lies in the availability of a professional VR and game-based tool for the prevention and therapy of psychopathological conditions.
SOOMA: a non-drug brain stimulation tool
With an expected increase of depression cases due to the new living conditions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, there will also be more cases left untreated if patients aren’t provided with new alternative solutions. SOOMA, an EIC-funded company from Finland, has developed an innovative medical technology for patients with depression, consisting of a non-invasive, non-drug brain stimulation tool. Sooma Depression Therapy needs to be prescribed by a medical professional, but patients can perform the treatment at home with approval from their healthcare provider.
Particular areas of the brain have their activity changed by depression. SOOMA’s solution is designed to direct a weak electric current from a small, portable device to these targeted areas, normalising the brain’s activity and relieving the symptoms of depression. This medical technology is being further improved with the EIC Accelerator funding. Nonetheless, it is already used in 30 countries, providing treatment to hundreds of patients. The startup is aiming to bring at-home neuromodulation treatments as the new standard of care to complement antidepressant medications and other therapeutics methods. The technology will enable the burdened clinics to treat more patients in a cost-effective and controlled way.
POTION: revealing how smell can influence human behaviour
Human communication and personal well-being can be highly influenced by the way chemistry connects people with each other. However, this topic still needs deep research to be fully understood. This is where POTION steps in: the EIC Pathfinder project aims to study social interaction by combining new knowledge about the chemical composition of human social chemo signals with a novel olfactory-based technology designed to drive social behaviour.
The research’s starting point is to analyse the basic emotions of happiness and fear because these emotions are drivers of approach and avoidance behaviours. Then, POTION will be applied in two different scenarios. In social scenarios, the project intends to reveal how olfaction clues work in managing the feelings of trust and inclusion. While in the clinical system, POTION will propose a new human chemo signal-based diagnosis and treatment for social anxiety, phobias and depression.