Monday, December 19, 2022

Tech Review: Wearable EEG/Cognitive Pacing Headband- Feat: NEUROVINE

INTRODUCTION:  9/1/2022- IPHA NEWS kicks off a direct demo and test drive of the device called NEUROVINE®- a brain performance tracking headband and APP.  This portable headband using EEG (electroencephalogram) technology is designed to measure brain waves with the objective of offering cognitive pacing for those who have suffered any form of head trauma/concussion.  After an exclusive interview with co-founders CEO Ashleigh Kennedy, Ph.D., and CMO Matthew Kennedy, MD, MSc (from Ottawa, Ontario, CA), our editors identified their objectives in support of concussion monitoring by measuring brain health as part of optimizing their recovery process. Neurovine is marketed to offer "interactive monitoring program for athletes, students, professionals and anyone undergoing mentally strenuous work by alerting them to take brain breaks before an activity becomes too strenuous”.  (See July 19 interview)

TEST DRIVE OBJECTIVES:
In pursuit of a user review, our first goal is to check the device for its quality, user friendliness and perceived/actual values to its intended market.  By this, a fair test drive would mean exploring ALL of its features within a fair timeline, as well as all resources around the device (including tech support and instructional materials). 



PROLOGUE: Getting Ready to Studying Brain Waves
BRAIN WAVES are oscillating electrical voltages in the brain measuring just a few millionths of a volt. For this device review, our testers recognize the visual advantage of tracking and monitoring of brain waves using the Neurovine EEG reports after each activity based on the 5 types of wave patterns. 

Five major brain waves include:
• GAMMA (Concentration)
• BETA (Anxiety Dominant)
• ALPHA (Relaxed/Passive Attention)
• THETA (Deeply relaxed)
• DELTA (Sleep)

Given the option of a variety of activities (from the APP), the following 5 images are actual post-activity reports of some of brain exertion.  The uniqueness of each graphic appears to record the major brain wave patterns- reflecting on the brain's real-time reaction to that specific activity. For this review of a COGNITIVE PACING (for head injuries/concussion), one can see the potential benefit of such a personal device during all stages of one's day by helping to identify one's brain health. Extrapolating from the graphic scan, high exertion would indicate elevated strain and struggle for the brain. The PACING element of this wearable device will translate this high exertion by suggesting "it's time to slow down or rest".


The Proper Start:
Getting the Most out of the Neruovine Device 

9/3 - When testing any device like the Neurovine®, our HTR device testers offer our first helpful lesson- about the value of a proper instructional phase.  Getting to know any device should be based on more than its marketing videos or quick-start demos. Nothing replaces a comprehensive training or reading the full instruction manual thoroughly.  Getting proper step-by-step guidance could be the difference between experiencing the right benefits of the device an incomplete and unfair review.  Our testers have studied user/consumer behavior from this phase, and found the vast majority of first-time users tend to want the quick study guide version with just a basic understanding of how to start and use the product.  

By and large, today's products have indeed evolved to offer more simplified and more friendly APPs and UI (user interface) designs for the average user. But when it comes to health or medical technology, it truly pays to have direct access to a trainer (if available) or a more comprehensive FAQ document.  This is where important concerns like SAFETY, PROPER and IMPROPER USE, MAINTENANCE and ADDITIONAL BENEFITS can help provide a more intelligent test drive. If you can't get the company to dedicate you a personal trainer or orientation guide, or if the online/paper manual is simply too cumbersome to digest, a possible useful source for helpful instructionals may be from the world's favorite educational media: YouTube! 

REVIEW 1: The Neurovine Orientation Team: 
We commend the company for sending us some of the kindest and most patient professionals as instructors of  the Neurovine device. Understandably, a post-concussion monitoring device requires through guidance, but if this product is marketed to practitioners or the consumer, hiring trainers with deep insight on the many types of brain issues and their impressive understanding of the human condition.  I have ‘challenged’ my own trainer and the developers  with deep interest and found everyone helping us expressed true and deep care, incomparable patience and a level of professional  responsive attention  to  the introduction of  the  technology.  As a personal health‐related device, people‐contact is everything! 

THE SETUP: Preparing for Use
After finally receiving the Neurovine kit (complete with the power cord and saline dispenser), I could not wait to charge the device for the 24‐hour recommended charge time so I could pair it to my cell phone and get started right away.  I was somewhat impressed at the quality of what appears to be a fairly sports‐rugged feel. The hardware paired fairly quickly with my Droid phone with a few minor work‐arounds.  The app was quite friendly, stylish and soothing to the eyes (easy to read)‐ and this is important for anyone who may have a possible brain‐related injury that calls for this product. 


SALINE SOLUTION  FOR  THE  ELECTRODE CONTACTS
I  provided  an  alternate  solution  to  the factory's  sponge  dropper  (which  is  hardly controllable  and  tends  to  spill  and  drip everywhere).    Instead,  I  employ  my  Saline Nasal Mist Spray or a hand atomizer  (from a Dollar  store),  which  dispenses  a  much  more controlled mist and even amount of moisture to the contact points without any mess.  The App will not let you continue unless all 6 contact points are moistened, and my nasal spray satisfies the App every time! 

BRAIN GAMES:  Once paired, the app takes on a life of its own.  It speaks to the headband to set me up, starting with BRAIN GAMES. The head band will read my 'brain waves' to create a BASE LINE of my personal metrics at the start point of all readings. I'm told the original set of tests  (through brain games) was reduced  from 40 minutes  to 10 minutes, which is much less painful  (undergoing 40 minutes of challenging brain games may just be too much for the many impatient people and those with potential head injuries or cognitive disorders.  These games offer 3‐5 sets of memory and focus challenges like staring at an X for 3 Minutes, or remembering a combination of letters and numbers under a limited time.  



ACTIVITY STUDIES
I give the APP developers an A for this page‐ offering initial forms of activity. Listed are the typical actions  that brain health is to be studied/scanned by the Neurovine device.  The standard list given steers you to target these specific work types, while allowing you to add new ones that also expel brain energy. 

PREFLIGHT ANXIETY: (Personal base line data collecting) I took on the Neurovine experience as any other head patient of a physiatrist or neurologist, whereby I was to undergo an EEG exam. Simulating this has some elevation in stress or anxiety with these brain games, which I was concerned may affect its accuracy and ultimate  results. My instructor  (Yvonne)  reassured me  that any distractions are actually calculated with the AI and that the data I collect will have the propensity to auto‐adjust itself to find my median. (God bless AI)  

WEARABLE COMFORT: The  device is fairly comfortable and workable for daily life use, making  the  'art'  of  collecting cognitive biometrics fairly stress-free.  After a minute or so, you won't even know it's on. It feels just like any other sports headband or baseball cap where the contact points do not feel like anything. The APP showed default activities to choose from (like driving, computer work, listening to music etc) and you can add to them at will. As a personal device, I'll be collecting enough metrics in no time.  




OBSERVATIONAL REVIEW 

(NEUROVINE Start Date: 11/9/2022 By: Lennard M. Gettz, Ed.D 

11/25- Day 8 of my review journey with the portable product NeuroVine.  This experience is helping me claim my rightful mantle as a publisher of something called HealthTech Reporter‐ where I need to remain consistent with my project, looking to challenge or support the claims set by the manufacturer’s marketing. If my goal (in fact( is to be a public service and non‐invasive tech advocate, remaining unbiased challenger must remain my position. 

LANDMARK #5‐ I continue to ‘enjoy’ the functions of the headband/app system.  For those who have head injuries or are looking to study their brain waves for cognitive pacing, the friendliness of the device’s design feels like it would survive long‐term daily use.   As the review duration progresses, I sought out any critiques and minor kinks within the product, and I am grateful to be part of their R&D.  I have a separate WISH LIST when using the product inspires good ideas for possible UPRAGES.  

LEARNING ABOUT MY BRAIN PHYSIOLOGY
The EEG output was astonishing to find the difference in graphic reporting.  Today, I conducted a dual test: One NV screening was during my drafting work of a proposal (L Image), and the second task was (Right Image) sending an email intro  to prospective clients.  Drafting a proposal  from scratch clearly  required  true brain capacity‐ and the stress of that was obvious. This effort took 17:16 mins and according to the session summary, left me with 0% brain energy.  If elevated or erratic spikes on a graph was indicative of activity, the NV report certainly showed this.   

The  2nd  scan,  where  most  of  my  work  was  copy pasting  an  introductory  email  to  CEO’s  and developers  as  significantly  less  brain  work  (other than  personalizing  the  letter  and  sending  to  the proper  contact.    It  took  up  only  15%  of  my  brain energy capacity within a shorter period of time (8:52) and left me with 85% remaining brain energy. 

a) The increasing elevation of Brain Exertion told me that creative and administrative tasks combined with the observed STRESS/ANXIETY of doing it right makes for evident rise‐and‐drop of this energy. 

b) An added exertion in  the brain  (observed) is  the irritating distraction and the struggle to stay focused when  people around me were walking around and interrupting. To bring oneself back to focus is something I find to be exertive, as I gather was the added reason for the highest spikes on scan 1. Whereby Scan 2 was much more tacit due to no interruptions and interacting with anyone. 


COGNITIVE PACING:
According to the manual, “Cognitive pacing relates to activities requiring mental energy, like reading, learning of focusing… it is a strategy of modifying these activities so they're easier to perform (progressively), while gradually increasing the level of effort given to them.”  I can see the value in this for someone recovering from head trauma and the device is truly designed for this with repeated use for specific activities. 

As a review of the APP itself, the “parenting” factor of this technology was supposed to be about PACING and this is where it most likely comes in. An astounding drop in my brain energy appears on  the  final screen when I concluded my session  today. Starting at a complete and fully BLUE brain, the endpoint showed an illustration of the Brain showing a RED, DEPLETED GRAPH, indicating high brain strain‐ reporting below the fatigue threshold level.  If anything RED is a mark of some form of danger or an alert to do something, this clearly communicated this.  An ALL CAPS command to “TAKE A BRAIN BREAK” appears on the top of the screen to further enforce this. 

Assessment 1:
I used to wonder why the producers never made a wired device (for assumed best performance of a consistent energy feed).  For anyone having cognitive issues or is under observation by a clinician, such reporting  functions offer  that level  of utility during life  functions  (which is  the value of a portable, wearable device).  Having a device like this (and others like the Pedometer, the Pulse Oximeter or the FitBit*) work best DURING active mode, where the collection of biometrics is at its highest and most detectible. 





PART 2: CUSTOM TEST- EEG MONITORING THE MUSICIAN’S BRAIN AT PLAY
"An EEG can find changes in brain activity that might be useful in diagnosing brain disorders, especially epilepsy or another seizure disorder. An EEG might also be helpful for diagnosing or treating: Brain tumors. Brain damage from head injury.  It records electrical patterns in your brain. The test is used to help diagnose conditions such as seizures, epilepsy, head injuries, dizziness, headaches, brain tumors and sleeping problems. It can also be used to confirm brain death." 


DAY 7:  THROUGHPUT  PROCESSING 
Identifying the capacity of cognitive pacing is one major focus of  the  Neurovine  headband  and  App.  But  part  of  my  goal  in conducting tech reviews is to challenge the limits of this device. This  includes  collecting  data  about  one's  brain  waves.    As indicated in the definition of an EEG *above), the sensitivity of this device is meant to access such vital and critical biometrics is meant to recognize the varying patterns of the brain.  A great exercise  for  this  is  testing  one's  capacity  while listening/studying  a  musical  piece  or  playing  a  musical instrument. 


From  prior  clinical  studies,  it  is  observed  that  the  mind  of  a musician  travels  on  various  pathways:  there's  the  linear function during performance through the frontal and temporal lobe‐  that  which  recognizes  sound  overall.  There's the instructional / mathematical  analysis  of  the mind's ability  identify compositions.  There's  the  memory  aspect  of  music performance responsible for muscle memory (of the hands playing the instrument) aligned with reading music or matching the music it creates with a recognized piece of music. And then there's the mind's 'responsibility' to fulfill a composition or  to  duplicate a  recognizable  piece  of music  from  start  to  finish.  This  function may also  support  both  the  hand‐eye coordination and the thinking one step ahead when performing each note or phrase, then simultaneously going to the next line.  All this makes up playing a musical instrument, and all are aimed to be captured by the Neurovine. 

MUSIC CHOICES: GENRES OF VARYING COMPLEXITY
Every genre has its characteristics‐ and all are identified by the audience and their reactions to these musical works.  As a performer, I find the COMPLEXITY of the song has a lot to do with the ANXIETY LEVEL cast on the performer.  It is this ANXIETY that I theorize to cause BRAIN FATIGUE (what the Neurovine App was meant to scan for). 

To choose a combination of styles from Flamenco, Ragtime, Rock, Folk and Soft Jazz should output unique differences in the EEG graphs.   I put my theory to use by logging each length of musical piece with the full duration/timeline of the NV brain activity readings.   Thanks to my trainer, I was explained that the EEG device reads brain fatigue/energy and outside effects on the brain as well as processing activity.  So it is here that I captured a time‐based set of graphic scans within the timeline when I played each song‐ matching it with the EEG linear graph. My brain waves were clearly communicating each music piece/type, reflecting my mental involvement of the song with my guitar playing.  The higher brain wave levels indicate the STRESS I was putting my brain through by working on more complex solos and riffs.  I also understand that LISTENING also shows up  as  recordable  brain  fatigue metrics  ‐  which means  those  high  peaks  at  the  EEG  are most  likely  due  to  the mind's engagement and empathy for the more complicated areas of each musical piece. 

Reference:  p1) How Musical Training Shapes the Adult Brain: Predispositions and Neuroplasticity 

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2021.630829/full



PART 3: DAILY LIFE ACTIVITIES

ACTIVITY TEST: DRIVING
Captain's Log... 12/23/2022 -  I finally found the time to test drive the Neurovine while DRIVING. As one of the main activity choices in the APP, I find driving to be one activity where the brain truly needs monitoring.  This activity spans ALL energy reports- from ZONING OUT on a long stretch of  highways to that sudden high BRAIN SPIKE when someone cuts you off to intermittent anxiety when you miss an exit.  The highest brain exertion is when I left the highway 30% into the review and  I found myself cutting through private streets and some medium traffic areas where I actually needed to pay more attention.  

I made sure to turn off the radio and my cell phone to conduct a full read of the driving experience. After 15.44 min, I found myself to have depleted significant brain energy, reduced from 100% to 11%.  This may be telling of a brain health condition or that driving is more stressful (or brain exhaustive) that I expected.


READING
12/23/2022 -  To confess, I have a growing stack of  books on my desk for that fateful day when I can catch up to my reading.  I dedicated 30 minutes to this test but the APP had other intentions.  Within 17.27 minutes, my brain was apparently exhausted and the program shut down with a warning to calm the mind.  I can attribute this to too much screen time and lack of work in that part of the imaginative brain that processes words into visuals.



RELAXATION SPELLS


12/31- I tried a variety of spellbinding zone activities around the home. As part of my intention to test the accuracy of the EEG sensory headband, I anticipated similarities between each scan, while identifying the minute differences of each experience- mainly how I interact with each of them. Comparatively, the EEG lines turned out to generate sensible differences.  





We all know about the calming power of GAZING at slow moving and floating objects.  I takes our minds off of stressful, over-exertive thoughts.  These find relaxation visuals allow us to follow things that move at a slower pace and with less effort on the eyes- bringing us into this hypnotic state. For this, I chose my aquarium and a lava lamp to explore the rest state of my brain.  Within a five minute period, I found both EEG graphs to register a fairly smooth and rounded lines- both starting at fairly elevated levels then gradually descending to the lowest exertion readings. Where high action readings show sharp, erratic up-and-down readings, both of these tests indicated un-dramatic movements- identifying limited cerebral demands. 

Within this same exercise, I chose a third relaxation activity- the fireplace. Here, I chose to keep my eyes un-fixated in any one area. I found my eyes bouncing around from the burning woods to the  random flickering tips of the flames.  The random yet pleasant crackling sounds also added to the information for the brain.  To my surprise, this text showed the least amount of variability. The slow plummet showed an immediate gliding descent to an almost flat line- indicating an almost completely RESTED brain by 40% of the event. A slight incline occurred by 80% of the event when I started moving around my seat, breaking the spell that a burning fire has apparently provided.  Lastly, if sensory intake affects brain activity, I could also attribute the HEAT as an added influence to pulling me into that deep rested (flat lined) state.



INTEGRATING (STACKING) MULTIPLE HEALTH TECHNOLOGIES
While undergoing microcirculation therapy of a muscle relaxing device called AVACEN, I found this to be a great opportunity to review brain waves and the parasympathetic response. 7:38  minutes  in the treatment showed a unique look to the EEG lines. Unlike the other up & down readings, the Avacen experience shows slow, rounded peaks.  I find this unusual because of the gradual slowness of the pulse waves rising and descending. This is indicative of the theorized philosophy of how such devices (including Pulse Electromagnetic Stimulation, Biofeedback etc) behave.  Another theory my clinical team and I have is that the  wave PATTERNS (behavior of my brain exertion) appear to have an even pace of up-to-down- pursuing a pattern that aligns with an eventual reduction in elevation- thus as time goes on, the highs and lows become reduced and the wave line settles toward the midpoint.  As this is only the beginning (1st day with Avacen), I aim to do continued studies with this device through NV as well as other therapeutic technologies that may offer such biometric readings.




STACKING (PART 2)- THE BRAINTAP (MEDITATIONAL DEVICE) TEST

This device reviewed shall undergo a Level 1 study (observational evaluation, biometric analysis from clinical imaging) of a device promoted as a portable relaxation and wearable meditation technology.  Commercially branded as BrainTap®, the device is designed to “address high stress, difficulty sleeping, low energy, and other lifestyle challenges”. By this, our evaluation partnership between members of IPHA (Integrative Pain Healers Alliance) and the Bard Diagnostic Imaging Center (NYC) joined to test drive/demo this and other technologies under a multi-modality review project as outlined below.
a. Evaluation on meditation effects on the body
b. Assessment and comments on the device's components (as stated in its user literature)
  - binaural beats, isochronic tones, holographic music
  - red and blue light / frequency therapy
c. Evaluation of the theories behind the device's design. Discussion on the variety of ways of boosting brain levels of serotonin, beta-endorphins and norepinephrine (as per the mentions of this device in social media, from other users blogs, literature and videos)





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