There are no neurologists in the Kingdom of Bhutan. In this country nestled in the Himalaya mountain range between China and India, the entire population of just under one million people must be serviced by one of two EEG machines, both located at the hospital in the country´s capital city, Timbu. This means that most of the country, and in particular the inhabitants of the most remote valleys, lack access to diagnostic tools for brain diseases like epilepsy. A portable brain scanner operated in conjunction with a simple smartphone could help to alleviate this situation. And that is exactly what the young Arkadiusz Stopczynski has developed, leading to his recognition as one of MIT Technology Review´s Innovators Under 35 Poland 2016.
Stopczynski explains: "Thanks to the arrival of smartphones, today we carry portable computers in our pockets." Although the majority of people only use them to download a handful of apps, this young Polish man believed that their computational power could be leveraged to create an ultra-portable medical device that could reach the most inaccessible places in the world.
"Today, the market offers headsets that allow you to control video games and robots with your mind," Stopczynski. This researcher at the MIT Media Lab and the Technical University of Denmark and data scientist at Google remembers wondering, "whether I could connect these devices with a mobile phone and use it to gather brain activity data."
Stopczynski has demonstrated that it is possible to obtain an EEG reading from this type of headset and that the quality of its signal is sufficient to diagnose illnesses like epilepsy. This young Polish man´s project obtained financing from the Canadian government to test the device´s effectiveness in Bhutan, as a pilot program for extending medical technology to remote and low-resource areas. The team has recently published their conclusions, all of which were positive.
In the words of the director of the Scientific and Technologic Park of Gdansk (Poland), Izabela Disterheft, " Stopczynski´s project addresses a real need." This jury member for the Innovators Under 35 Poland 2016 awards is especially impressed by the potential "positive impact on the lives of many people" of this project.