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Sunday, May 19, 2024

SoCal Startup Offers 10-Minute Brain Scan for Better Health

TECH: Wave Neuro’s Research Makes Big Splash at SXSW

Leaders at SoCal biohacking startup Wave Neuroscience recently returned from the 2023 SXSW tech conference in Austin, Texas, where the company was showcased as part of a panel promoting the use of measuring brain data as a means of optimizing mental health.

Fred Walke
Wave Neuro

“When we’re done, we hope to be able to mitigate a large percentage of mental illness that exists today in the world,” said Wave Neuro CEO Fred Walke.

Headquartered in Newport Beach with local San Diego locations in Cardiff and Hillcrest, Wave Neuro’s technology uses a fresh take on electroencephalograms (EEGs) – medical tests that have long been used by clinicians to measure the electrical activity of the brain by attaching electrodes to the scalp. Electrical activity can reveal how effectively the brain’s cells are communicating.  The tests are commonly used for patients who are experiencing epilepsy, sleep disorders and brain tumors.

Wave Neuro doesn’t require a medical provider’s referral. Clients don’t need to be sick to be seen. Anyone with $99 can visit one of Wave Neuro’s three SoCal locations or national and international partner locations for a 10-minute brain scan.

An analyst later breaks down your results and presents potential courses of personalized treatment protocols that routinely include neuromodulation, which is more commonly known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

TMS dates to the 1980s and is considered a noninvasive form of stimulation that targets parts of the brain using electromagnetic induction. According to Harvard Medical School’s Health blog, the most common side effect is a headache. Seizures are a rarer, more serious potential side effect.

Treating Trauma, Brain Injuries, Depression

The TMS treatment is often used in athletes and veterans who are recovering from trauma and brain injuries. Or, in patients with severe depression.

Walke said Wave Neuro is focused on helping those with clinical conditions but is also targeting the average person who may currently be experiencing – or looking to avoid – milder mental health issues like mood swings or anxiety.

“If we do our jobs right with this technology, we can turn it into hygiene and regular brain scans and find neurons that are not performing correctly, and we can fix those and help them heal before symptoms present,” Walke explained. “Let’s not only help the ill, but also help people avoid illness.”

The Chula Vista native who now lives in Newport Beach said he opened Wave Neuro offices in San Diego for several reasons. “It’s a very strong military town and we want to take care of those who’ve served and provide resources to them.” Beyond that, Walke added the area is a good fit for the new technology because people in San Diego tend to be “focused on their overall fitness, health and social environments.”

Walke said he committed himself to Wave Neuro four years ago after he saw how the treatment reversed behavioral issues his daughter was battling after suffering from a soccer-related concussion. Since its launch in 2019, Wave Neuro has grown tenfold and now treats more than 1,000 patients a month.

How It Works

Neuromodulation can be done in a few ways. There’s a take-home helmet called Sonal. Wave Neuro tells most patients to use it for an average of 30 minutes a day for 30 days. Scans are taken during the course of treatment to reveal any progress. The cost is around $600 if you come into the facility each day for use or $1,200 to take the device home.

The other route is more powerful but comes at a higher cost – around $7,000. With physician oversight, the average patient is required to come in five days a week for 30-minute-long sessions for a total of four weeks.

Using brain data to optimize mental health is becoming increasingly popular today. Some of the other prominent mental health startups offering brain stimulation devices and neuromodulation therapy include  Neuronetics,  eNeura, Cervel Neurotech and Brainsway.

When this reporter decided to visit Wave Neuro’s Cardiff location to give it a go, a team member placed a helmet-like device with electrodes on my head. After sitting in the dark in silence for 10 minutes, it was time to leave. A few days later, an analyst contacted me to go over the scan results.

The analyst had a degree in behavioral neuroscience and specialized in neurological disorders. He dissected my brain’s wave patterns, noting both the highlights and the areas for improvement.

The biggest takeaway with my results: There was an elevation in so-called theta waves, which were described to me by the analyst as “excess white noise” that can stunt concentration. I was told that it’s common with sleep disruption, which came as no surprise as I often deal with bouts of insomnia.

All in all, the entire process was simple, and the results provided tangible evidence that reinforced my slumber woes. I can decide down the road if I want to pursue neuromodulation therapy.

Wave Neuro currently only accepts insurance for limited clinical indications like depression but is looking to expand coverage for reimbursement in the future.

“This is a great alternative to pharmacological intervention,” Walke said.

Wave Neuro

CEO: Fred Walke
HEADQUARTERS: Newport Beach (with multiple locations in San Diego)
BUSINESS: Medical testing
NOTABLE: The technology has received praise from high-profile patients like former San Diego Chargers center Nick Hardwick who has recovered from issues associated with thousands of blows to the head.


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