Headset to empower chronic pain sufferers to reclaim their lives

u-blox, a global provider of positioning and wireless communication technologies and services, and Exsurgo, a company developing technology-based neurological treatments, have announced that Exsurgo’s Axon headset for chronic pain treatment runs on a u-blox ANNA-B112 Bluetooth 5 system-in-package (SIP) also used for wireless communication. The headset is part of a 116-person clinical trial to prove safety and efficacy. Exsurgo plans to take the device into high-volume production in the second half of 2022 to serve markets in the USA, UK, and European Union.

Exsurgo’s solution to alleviating chronic pain relies on neurofeedback, an approach that involves measuring a user’s brain activity and providing them with state-specific feedback.

The Axon headset uses electroencephalography (EEG) to measure electrical activity from multiple sites on the patient’s scalp. It then uses Bluetooth to wirelessly stream this data to a mobile device, where a visual representation of the patient’s EEG activity is displayed in near real-time. Through a neurofeedback application on the mobile device, the patient can then engage with neuro-exercises that will train them to change the state of their brain in a way that reduces their perception to chronic pain.

As with any medical device, the design process of the Axon headset was challenging. For maximum efficacy, the neurofeedback needed to be as close to real-time as possible, requiring low latency between the EEG signal and the visual feedback. Usability and comfort were also critical. The headset needed to be slim, light, and compact. Minimal power consumption would further help reduce efforts for device maintenance and recharging.

By working with the ultra-compact ANNA-B112 Bluetooth 5 SIP, measuring only 6.5 x 6.5 x 1.2 millimeters, Exsurgo was able to reduce the overall size of the electronics and design a product patients would feel comfortable using. And leveraging Bluetooth 5’s considerable payload capacity, they were able to achieve data rates high enough to transmit data sampled from multiple EEG electrodes while meeting the demanding latency requirement.

“The Axon headset beautifully demonstrates how IoT technology can take a previously costly solution and make it accessible to a much broader audience. A massive burden on healthcare systems and the economy, chronic pain affects up to one in five people around the world. We are excited to be part of a solution that promises to have life changing effects on millions of people,” says Pelle Svensson, senior product marketing manager, Product Center Short Range at u-blox.

“u-blox added value throughout the development process of the Axon headset, not only as a hardware supplier, but also as a design partner. The small size of the ultra-low-power ANNA-B112, its powerful microprocessor, along with detailed reference schematics for seamless integration into our electronics project were instrumental in designing a quality medical device,” says Faisal Almesfer, chief technology officer at Exsurgo.

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