A new system, based on EEG and proprietary processing software, is being used to assess the ability of the brain to function after alcohol, prescription drugs, or other stimulants.
[Alan] Gevins, founder of SAM Technology and the San Francisco Brain Research Institute, has developed a system that combines EEG with cognitive testing–computer tests that assess a person’s memory or ability to multitask–to get a more direct measure of the brain’s ability to remember and pay attention. He is now aiming to commercialize the technology, with the eventual goal of using it to more precisely assess cognitive decline and tailor drug prescriptions to minimize cognitive side effects. The technology incorporates both new hardware, to measure electrical activity, and new software, to process those signals.
Previous research by the group suggests that drinking may be more detrimental to our ability to function than previously thought. The brain effects of alcohol remain two to three hours after the behavioral effects have disappeared, even when blood alcohol level is as low as 0.02 percent, about a quarter of the legal limit for driving in most states. “You might be able to summon short bursts of attention and perform well on a short test, but the brain is still abnormal,” says Aaron Ilan, principal neuroscientist at SAM Technology. “You won’t be able to fully focus on a task like driving for several hours.”