Written by Zoe Stevens
In the field of mental health, Israeli startup Amygdala is empowering patients to take control of their own brains, aiming to address the fundamental aspects of emotional well-being. Harnessing the power of cutting-edge brain-computer interface (BCI) technology, the company's goal is to guide patients on a transformative journey to recovery from debilitating mental health conditions like PTSD, depression, and anxiety. At its heart, Amygdala's approach involves utilizing closed-loop BCI to establish new, resilient neural connections within the brain.
In a candid conversation, Tech It Forward Intern Zoe Stevens had the privilege of interviewing Shani Sofer, the CBO and co-founder of Amygdala. Shani is supported by her team: Ohav Givaty, Nofar Laor, and Ariel Kesslasy. Sofer, whose background includes nine years of service as a combat navy and intelligence officer, possesses an intimate understanding of the profound mental health challenges associated with high-pressure environments. Observing the distressing impact of conditions like PTSD among her military comrades, Sofer was compelled to explore innovative avenues to help people suffering from these conditions. She states passionately, "These mental illnesses are real and they are in our brains."
The start of Amygdala stemmed from Sofer's recognition of the need for a technologically advanced solution that delves deep into the intricacies of brain function, in contrast to conventional therapeutic or medicinal approaches. This distinction sets Amygdala apart, separated into three core pillars:
Holistic Brain Interpretation: Rather than focusing on isolated brain regions, Amygdala adopts a holistic perspective, analyzing the brain's overall functioning levels. This approach uncovers the intricate communication patterns between different brain components, ultimately revealing insights relating to the body's immune responses.
Immersive Gaming Experience: At the heart of Amygdala’s method lies a captivating gaming experience. A closed-loop BCI video controlled by the patient simulates a futuristic battlefield with tension, conflict, and a dark setting. As the individual engages with this virtual world, their brain activity is meticulously monitored. As their brain activity shifts positively, the virtual scene automatically receives positive feedback.
Attitude of Accessibility: Amygdala is providing accessible mental health care by offering a downloadable mobile app version of its technology. This platform eliminates the barriers of traditional treatment avenues, such as long waiting lists and high costs. With only a phone, internet connection, and a Convenient EEG device electroencephalogram (EG) device, individuals can embark on their journey toward mental well-being. Additionally, the platform operates via cloud technology or under the guidance of a therapist, enhancing its accessibility further.
Amygdala's approach has been tested through a pilot program conducted in Israel. Notably, patients exhibited a remarkable 40% improvement in managing stressful situations, affirming the potential of the technology to regulate the body's lymph system. These results displayed the positive impact of Sofer's innovative ideas on individuals grappling with mental health challenges.
When asked about her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs in the field of mental health, Sofer emphasized the need to believe in your own vision. To break the barriers within the mental health community, the key is to stay committed and surround yourself with a network of supportive connections.
Sofer's own journey is deeply intertwined with her experiences in the military. Her tenure as a combat officer equipped her with invaluable skills in stress management, self-awareness, and navigating life’s challenges. The convergence of these experiences has propelled her efforts with Amygdala, making it that much more important to her and those on her team. In Sofer's words, “This world of mental health is old and people are inspired to find solutions to fix the brain. We had been made to believe mental illnesses came from within our hearts which made us feel we had to see psychotherapists that might be helpful, but when people understand that one in four people suffer from a mental disorder, it is our mission to bring innovative solutions to help real serious illnesses. It's not that you just feel bad one day, it is much bigger than that.”
In the ever-evolving landscape of mental health care, Amygdala stands as a beacon of hope, demonstrating the transformative potential of technology in healing the mind. As the world continues to grapple with the complexities of mental health, the visionaries at Amygdala offer a testament to the power of innovation, empathy, and resilience in the pursuit of a healthier, more compassionate society focused solely on emotional well-being.