Since the early 20th century, scientists and doctors have experimented with a technique of brain manipulation—electroencephalography (EEG) neurofeedback—to treat conditions and improve performance. For decades, this treatment has cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. But a new startup, Potential X, wants to deliver it to people with low(er)-cost ‘FocusBuds.’
EEG works by monitoring the electrical signals emitted by one’s brain with sensors placed on one’s head. It is commonly used to track brain activity and diagnose conditions like epilepsy, brain tumors, traumatic brain injuries, strokes, sleep disorders, and more.
The practice of neurofeedback then takes these insights delivered by the EEG scans and sends signals—typically audio or visual—back to the brain in an effort to promote positive brain activity and discourage negative actions. In the case of Potential X, the company uses earbuds (FocusBuds) to use EEG to scan the brain while also sending back neurofeedback to promote focus. Their devices retail for $249.
Potential X Undergoes a Successful IndieGoGo Campaign, and Gets a Shoutout
Some see huge potential for this technology in education, work, and more. As the company states in a press release:
The use cases for FocusBuds is limitless. The most obvious use case would be for those serious about improving their own personal focus levels and efficiency to get ahead at the workplace. The Pareto principle states that 80% of an individual’s work output is a result of 20% of their efforts, this 20% is usually when the person is most focused and ‘in flow.’ Just imagine how much more work one can get done if they are able to double or triple the time they spend focused – this is precisely what Potential X is setting out to achieve with their latest offering.
Inconclusive Results Regarding EEG Neurofeedback
The case for EEG-informed neurofeedback, however, is not ironclad.
For example, many researchers have seen huge potential in the technology’s ability to combat ADHD. But few studies have managed to demonstrate its benefits with rigorous methodologies or a significant sample size. A 2014 meta analysis found, “found that the effects were stronger for unblinded measures and 3 recent subsequently published well-controlled trials found no effects for the most blinded ADHD outcome. Firmer conclusions must await upcoming evidence from larger controlled studies and future meta-analyses contrasting different forms of neurofeedback and different outcome measures.”
What’s more, clinical guides for its vary widely by country.
When it comes to non-medical uses, like those proposed by Potential X, a few interesting studies have emerged. A 2011 analysis recorded numerous benefits for both professionals and amateurs in creative fields like music and dance.
Also, no negative side effects or safety hazards have been associated with EEG neurofeedback.
A 2017 review concluded that, “Despite a number of improvements that still need to be applied more widely to common protocols, EEG neurofeedback represents a feasible and promising tool for therapeutic interventions, cognitive enhancement, as well as a method for basic research.”
Featured Image: Alexandru Gorman, Unsplash.