Russia has established itself as a hub for neurotech startups, attracting scientists and business people keen to understand, treat, and repair the human brain. Here are the startups leading the charge of neurotech innovation in Russia.
Neurotechnology is a field of research that aims to read and influence the brain. Turns out that neurotech is one of the key strengths of the Russian innovation market, with the Russian government supporting initiatives such as the Neuronet Industry Union, whose main goal is to foster collaborations and develop a competitive neurotech market in Russia.
“There are currently various investments from different funds and government support provided for startups and neurotech companies. Meanwhile, experienced academic research groups are opening up for collaboration,” said Yi Er Law, Senior Business Development Manager of the Moscow-based neurotech company Impulse Neiry.
One of the strongest areas of research is the use of brain-computer interfaces for rehabilitation treatments, where the renowned Russian engineering and computing know-how is fusing with the growing understanding of brain mechanisms.
“Initially focused mainly on medical applications, some Russian companies now gradually look into other fields, such as education and the gaming industry,” Law told me. ”A number of companies manufacture good quality hardware, while others are credited for their strong base in R&D.”
All these factors suggest a continuous progress during the next decade in Russia, where scientists, engineers, patients, and other users are willing to imagine and build a tech world that is controlled by our brains. These are the startups spearheading neurotech innovation in Russia.
BiTronics Lab offers educational tools for school children and students in the fields of biology, bioengineering and neurotechnology. The company sells DIY kits to create electronic devices that can be controlled by biological signals from the human body, contributing to the acquisition of basic skills in neurotechnology and man-machine interactions. Some of the sets are compatible with Lego toys, and they are already present in more than 200 educational institutions.
Cosyma provides non-invasive devices that help paralyzed people to restore autonomous movement by electrically stimulating different segments of the spinal cord as needed. Combining this with neural network algorithms, the technology helps reactivate structural functions of the central and peripheral nervous systems, improving the walking patterns of patients with cerebral palsy or who have suffered a stroke.
Exoatlet develops bionic exoskeletons designed to restore impaired locomotive functions and compensate for lost functions. One of their main products is called the ExoAtlet Bambini, designed for children and teenagers. The company is currently collaborating with neuroscientists to launch new models that can be controlled directly by the patients’ brains, pursuing more effective methods of neurorehabilitation.
Location: Saint Petersburg
i-Brain Technologies develops brain training solutions that use electrodes and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve athletes’ performance. The technology translates movements encoded in the user’s thoughts, such as kicking a football, into virtual actions displayed in a contextually-relevant video game. This repeated process trains the motor control centers in the brain, with the goal of improving physical performance. In addition to helping athletes, the platform also provides insights for coaches and sports directors.
Impulse Neiry is developing a technology that blends brain-machine interfaces with virtual reality (VR). The startup originally focused on the gaming industry, but later expanded to healthcare, with the goal of detecting neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s up to several years in advance in order to help slow down its progression. Another application is education; the company recently launched a pilot project in Moscow with the aim of improving the cognitive abilities of students.
MDinc uses augmented reality technology for remote rehabilitation of patients with upper limb motor dysfunction. The company has developed an app that uses a smartphone camera to automatically detect and classify hand exercises performed by the patient, controlling the course and correctness of the exercise therapy. Through machine learning algorithms based on the patient’s patterns of movement, the model can create a personalized package of exercises for each patient and speed up their rehabilitation.
Motorica develops and produces multifunctional arm prostheses using 3D printing. The devices deploy electromyography technology to measure the electrical characteristics of a patient’s muscles and, based on this information, send electrical impulses to the prosthetic limb, enabling the user to grasp different objects. The technology goes beyond gestures and contractions, providing additional features such as contactless payment and mobile connection technologies, with personalized and futuristic designs.
Location: Saint Petersburg
Mybrainstorm focuses on improving cognitive abilities using non-invasive electrical stimulation to increase concentration, improving memory and reaction time. The company’s neurostimulator device is oriented to affect certain areas of the brain with a modulated current optimized to increase their activity.
Neurobotics works in the interdisciplinary fields of neurotechnology and robotics. The company offers electrode headsets for rehabilitation after stroke and head trauma. The most popular is NeuroPlay, a device designed to evaluate mental activity, train self-control skills, and move virtual objects and robotic devices. Neurobotics has established multiple partnerships with Russian scientific institutions and actively participates in the Cybathlon, an international competition featuring technologies that help people with physical disabilities complete everyday tasks.
Neurochat develops neural communication and neuro-training systems for people suffering from severe speech and movement disorders. The startup’s technology combines a virtual keyword with a brain-computer interface capable of interpreting the brain reactions of the user, working with a brain wave called P300 that is involved in decision-making processes. The headset is able to detect a letter or word the user is thinking of, allowing them to construct elaborate sentences. The device is available in six different languages.
SensoRehab develops hardware and software solutions for post-stroke rehabilitation. The startup has created a device called the Senso Glove that is able to track arm and finger movements in every direction. The device makes use of a series of cognitive games to improve motor functions. All motor skills and rehabilitation process data are saved to the cloud, facilitating rehabilitation via a doctor’s remote monitoring.
The company provides a neural interface called BIXXI that evaluates the state of the brain by measuring the levels of oxygen in the blood vessels and the blood flow. The technology scans the surface of the human scalp and the upper layers of the cerebral cortex, using optical location in the near-infrared region of the spectrum. The device can be used to detect signs of neurological disease, to control computers, and even determine whether a patient that has tested positive for Covid-19 requires hospitalization, since blood oxygen levels are one of the key parameters that determine the severity of the disease.