Canada’s The Globe and Mail is reporting that workers at Ontario’s Pickering and Darlington nuclear power plants have been testing a new device that detects brain waves through skin contact on the arm. The hope is to have the ability to detect when workers are losing concentration, a critical issue when dealing with nuclear fission.
It’s not clear how the device manages to gather enough signal so far away from the brain, but Freer Logic, the Skyland, North Carolina company that developed the Body Wave device does not plan on introducing the technology for clinical use. Nevertheless, the promise of EEG monitoring away from the scalp is intriguing and we hope to see this technology develop further.
Some details from The Globe and Mail:
Five years ago, Mr. Templeton was in charge of OPG’s [Ontario Power Generation] operator training program when he heard that a kind of neurofeedback technology being used for children with attention-deficit disorder was also being used by NASA to measure astronauts’ level of concentration.
“If its original intent was to help astronauts and test pilots,” he says, “why not nuclear operators?”
The technology is the brainchild of Peter Freer, a North Carolina elementary-school teacher frustrated by stymied efforts to help students with ADD. It took 11 years and three jobs for him to scrape together enough cash to create a prototype for an educational program called PlayAttention. Mr. Freer was testing the technology on the U.S. bobsled team, with the same focus-boosting aim, when Mr. Templeton cold-called him. Could Mr. Freer whip up something like that for nuclear-plant operators?
Mr. Freer called back the next day. What ensued was years of back-and-forth on how, exactly, the device could be adapted to suit OPG.
Mr. Templeton wanted something as unintrusive as possible – normally, electroencephalograms are gathered through wires suctioned to the scalp, which can get in the way in a simulated nuclear control room. The result is a device called BodyWave. It weighs about 170 grams, can be strapped anywhere on the body and is eminently portable.
The Globe and Mail: Surfing the flow of brain waves to help employees pay attention
(hat tip: Neurogadget)