Philip Low can diagnose you while you sleep

Dr. Philip Low cannot read your mind. At least not in the traditional sense. He can, however, diagnose a range of mental and other illnesses while you sleep using a single brain sensor about the size of three pennies.

“We get rid of the ‘electrode medusa’ of sleep labs with a single sensor,” Low explained to the audience of the Future in Review conference Thursday afternoon. Using that sensor and brain imaging, Low’s company Neurovigil has identified biomarkers of specific diseases.

At one point Low, working with the Navy on a project, did a blind test of his sensor on a patient from across the country. Without any previous knowledge of the patient, he was able to correctly diagnose brain trauma and PTSD and to determine that depression and pschizophrenia were not present.

About a year ago, for the first time, his technology helped an ALS patient communicate by moving a computer cursor to form words using only his brain. These days, Stephen Hawking is a patient too and NASA is using the Neurovigil brain monitor on astronauts in space.

Next up he is creating an organization called Neurozone, an innovations incubator for brain technologies modeled after the Boston Business Hub. He’s excited at the prospect of being able to diagnose more diseases as he receives more and more data and feedback from patients, though he wants to keep diagnoses in-house. “When we’re talking about the brain, I don’t want people to self-diagnose.”

Coming down the pike: Low says self-designed evolution through cognitive enhancement will have interesting results in the years ahead.

Not bad for a guy who got his start by studying the brain patterns of birds.