Google Glass

The Google Glass project met a sad demise a couple of years ago, however, its application is receiving benefits for the University of Otago in New Zealand where scientists have built up a Google Glass-like device that can help to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists at the university are focusing on simulating the human senses using the device and help prevent conditions associated with memory problems.

The olfactory system which is related to the sense of smell is known to be dysfunctional in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys memory and targets mental functions as well. With treatment and care, the proper olfactory function can help regain consciousness after brain injuries.

What’s the wearable concept like?

wearable stimulator
Image credit: Otago University

The entire research is based on a wearable concept prototype — similar to Google Glasses – that is capable of producing minor electronic pulses on the skin to stimulate the olfactory nervous system.

“Olfactory nerves have terminals deep in the brain regions which influence memory and navigation,” said lead author Yusuf Ozgur Cakmak, Associate Professor at Otago’s Department of Anatomy.

“We’re hopeful this method will help stimulate these networks to alleviate symptoms or suppress the progression of Alzheimer’s disease to Dementia. It also has the potential to help coma recovery and Parkinson’s disease.”

Early non-invasive treatment

Professor Cakmak reiterated that they are promising early results with the treatment and the technology can also pave way for developing the world’s first non-invasive, wearable electrical stimulation system to target the olfactory regions.

The process of modulating the olfactory regions with electrical stimulation has been successfully attempted before. The objective that the research pursues is touted to offer treatment that is easier and less cumbersome than conventional medical treatments.

“Applying this treatment via a headset on a hair-free zone that can be worn in a daily routine instead of more invasive treatments makes this method unique,” Cakmak said.

How does the gizmo work?

Scientists tested multiple electrode configurations developed by them with the aid of electrical field modeling that was validated with direct human brain recordings during brain surgery.

New York-based company Soterix Medical, a leading provider of non-invasive neuromodulation and brain monitoring technology, has joined hands with the research team from Otago to take the application of the technology forward.

The international team plans to test their wearable stimulator in a clinical trial soon.