As a final project for an electrical and computer engineering course called “Designing With Microcontrollers,” two Cornell students created a brain-computer interface. The BCI allowed them to play Pong with their brain waves and also record and store sleep data. Watch the Pong below:
While Pong is the sexy side of the project, the other functionality—recording sleep patterns—is quite interesting and is related to two current trends: quantified self, in which people log and analyze granular data about their habits and their health, and, perhaps more importantly, the movement to give patients access to their own data.
Charles Moyes and Mengxiang Jiang explain in their write-up that they were inspired by Moyes' severe sleep apnea. When a patient undergoes a sleep study, they say, “the patient often is denied access to their own data since a licensed sleep specialist interprets it for them. Our goal was to build a low-cost alternative that would allow users to take their health in their own hands by diagnosing and attempting to treat their own sleep disorders.”
We’re still a long way out from patients diagnosing and treating their own disorders. But this experiment demonstrates the growing interest in giving patients access to and control over information about their own health. For instance, patient advocate Hugo Campos has been campaigning for companies that make implanted devices (he has an implantable cardiac defibrillator) to give patients like him access to the generated biometric data. Giving people their own information, he says, is important to empowering them to take control of their own health. As medical technology changes and more people walk around with such devices implanted in their bodies, this conversation will be increasingly important.