Project Spotlight: Brain Tsunamis (update)

We recently checked in with Dr. Pulkit Grover, Angel Jordan Associate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Carnegie Mellon Neuroscience Institute and Dr. Shawn Kelley, Adjunct Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Senior Systems Scientist, of the CMLH to get an update on their project. Their project focuses on Cortical Spreading Depolarizations (CSDs) or “Brain Tsunamis” which play an important role in many disorders, including Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), stroke, hemorrhage, and migraine. Since their initial funding through the PHDA, they have been continuing to develop algorithms and techniques to non-invasively suppress CSDs by using online detection and ensuing stimulation. They also have a startup called Precision Neuroscopics.

Please provide a brief refresher on your project and what has been happening lately?

We have advanced the science and engineering of ultra-resolution EEG in the following ways:

  • Grover’s team developed the first algorithm for localizing silences in the brain non-invasively. The work appeared in Nature Comm Biology, 2021, and has received a lot of attention.
  • We have data from multiple patients, thanks to the project, and are analyzing it. We are really excited about the work as it is coming along!
  • We have developed novel hardware that works with all hair types, with a focus on Black hair.
Tell us more about your startup.

Precision Neuroscopics is aimed at bringing our scientific and engineering advances to the patients and have a transformative impact in treating the debilitating disorders of TBI and stroke. These affect millions of Americans every year and are characterized by locations and evolution of silence in the brain. The startup is overhauling current technologies, from sensors’ hardware to data-analysis techniques, to remove critical bottlenecks and move the clinical needle in this space, providing clinicians with timely, relevant, and high-resolution information.

And, we have exciting news! Precision Neuroscopics was recently awarded a $1M NSF STTR grant for their work with novel high-density EEG systems to non-invasively detect signals in the brain indicative of TBI.

What was most exciting or unexpected that you learned during the research?

That neural silences can be detected non-invasively with great accuracy. Further, it only needs us to record data for only a few minutes. We did not expect it, as typically such analyses yield poor resolution non-invasively, especially so with portable technologies. This could be a game-changer for diagnosis of a whole host of disorders.

What are the biggest takeaways (so far) from your project and forming your startup?

Forming a good team is hard. Disagreements are healthy as long as the team is aligned in its goals and is driven to succeed. Having a goal that will improve lives is a tremendous motivating factor.

What are your next steps forward now that you have been awarded the new grant?

We want to publish data demonstrating unprecedented accuracy in diagnosing symptoms of brain injury and stroke non-invasively. We want to convince clinicians and the FDA that our systems are effective and will help them make better decisions. We are aiming to achieve this not only by having excellent results on clinical data, but also developing algorithms that are transparent and can be explained to clinicians and clinical researchers for broad acceptability.