o8t is building a GPS for the brain.
What that actually means, is the startup’s platform will tell doctors where things are and how they’re functioning together. Basically, it’ll build an accurate picture of what’s going on with your brain by building out a brain map and sending that data out to an app for a doctor to then use while they’re, for example, in the operating theatre.
It doesn’t have to be for surgery, it also helps in gaining a bigger picture of what’s going on or to monitor if things are changing, visualising also the presence of the likes of depression.
It’s a ridiculously cool concept, one that provides endless possibilities. As co-founder and chief data scientist at o8t Dr Stephane Doyen says, it can be used “for all sorts of treatments that you can think of, ranging from pharma to direct brain simulation”.
I came across Omniscient Neurotechnology (o8t) watching Billion Dollar Napkin, a YouTube series created by AWS (Amazon’s cloud business) to, as the company says, “meet a founder of an established startup to explore the highs, lows, twists, turns and milestones they’ve faced as they’ve grown their business”.
At about 1 minute into the video, Doyen provides a great explanation of what o8t does, one that I couldn’t possibly do justice to in one short article. But basically, the company exists to reach a better understanding of the brain and provide better treatment for patients.
“What we’re building is a GPS for the brain. It tells doctors where things are and how they’re functioning together and what is important and what they should be looking for when they’re planning for their approach,” Doyen explains.
Speaking with Gizmodo Australia, Doyen said using machine learning and artificial intelligence, the team behind o8t is able to reduce the complexity and focus solely on that one individual’s brain – as you can imagine, there’s a lot of data to filter through to determine if anything is not ‘normal’. Sometimes, he said, it’s a computational problem, not a doctor one.
“The solution is to not so much provide the answer but to reduce the complexity of what you find in MRIs so that doctors are making better decisions based on stronger data that’s easier to understand,” Doyen added.
“Some say [the brain is] one of the most complicated objects we know, we’re talking about billions of neurons, each of which have an incredible number of connections and so understanding how it works can really get computationally complicated.”
Essentially, what o8t has built using ML is a tool that goes through all the wiring you have in the brain to understand every single function; basically, reducing the information complexity so that you get to an answer based on unbiased, available information.
Doyen wanted to be a psychologist, but pivoted to a neuropsychologist, helping out those who had strokes or brain injuries. He spent a lot of time delivering bad news and not really liking the fact he couldn’t do anything about it.
“I was fascinating about the brain as a piece of machinery and thought that understanding the bits of it, you could probably make it work better after such events,” he told Gizmodo Australia.
A few years later, Doyen and connected with his now co-founder Dr Michael Sughrue who wanted to do something about the problems he was facing in the field. Then, o8t was born.
It’s a great idea and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for 08t. Oh, by the way, company is headquartered in Sydney.