Devices & Diagnostics

Q&A: MindMaze is utilizing virtual realty to treat neurological disorders, announces $100M fund-raise

MindMaze has developed a platform designed to help those who are disabled neurologically, mostly stroke victims, recover by re-training their brain with the help of virtual reality, computer graphics and brain imaging.

MindMaze

Switzerland-based MindMaze has developed a platform designed to help those who are disabled neurologically, mostly stroke victims, recover by re-training their brain with the help of virtual reality, computer graphics and brain imaging.

The company announced Wednesday that it has raised $100 million in a first round of funding, led by the Hinduja Group. It also announced its pre-money valuation is more than $1 billion.

In an interview, MindMaze’s CEO Tej Tadi, who is a neurologist and engineer, shared about the company’s plans and the potential to expand moving forward.

Can you explain more about how MindMaze’s technology works at what sets it apart from other virtual reality treatments?

Our goal was to look at how to re-train the brain. A lot of these patients they are trying to re-train their brain after an injury, and in many cases they only have a curser on a screen and a clinician would say “Imagine your hand on the screen.” What we discovered more than 10 years ago was that using virtual reality makes this process more real and elicits more natural responses in the brain.

One thing we can do is, say someone loses the function of their left hand, we can use the image of their right hand and use motion capture technology. What the patient sees is an image of their left hand moving, and it teaches the brain to think “Oh it’s moving, so you should try more.” It tricks the brain into thinking that limb can actually move. It’s like a placebo effect.

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It almost sounds like this could be a back-end solution to addressing issues with phantom limbs.

It’s a really good point. One of the things we do, we work with stroke patients, but we are beginning to work with amputee patients that deal with exactly what you just said, phantom pain. With this, the treatment is pretty much the same principle. If we can replicate the hand in a virtual world it’s extremely powerful for these people.

If a person experiencing phantom pain can see a hand or limb visibly, then would you treat it virtually?

Yes exactly. A lot of the times people with phantom pain feel like their hand is clenched. In the moment that they can see a hand that is moving, they pain is just gone. It’s quite effective and adaptable because we can do this with any body part. The results are very engaging.

Beyond phantom pain treatment, what’s the timeline for treatment with stroke victims?

With phantom pain it can actually be just within seconds to feel relief. We’ve seen results within a few days to a few weeks of treatment for stroke patients. It depends on the lesion, how big the damage is.

What will the new fund-raise amount be used for?

We already have a product out there, but this money will go toward more geography, expanding the presence to new markets – going from Europe to also Asia and the United States. We also would like to expand in our research, going beyond stroke and brain injury. We are beginning to look at Parkinson’s patients for example, so some money will go toward R&D and clinical trials.

We also want to go in someways beyond healthcare because healthy people can also train their brain. We want to have the medical side but also show that even healthy people can enhance their potential.

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