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🧠 The PsyMed Ventures Neurotech for Mental Health Landscape
We invite neurotech founders, investors, researchers and more to engage with this ongoing project.
Neurotech is a rapidly evolving field with immense potential to transform how we treat mental illnesses. At PsyMed Ventures, we believe neurotech solutions can be safe and effective, and will be integrated into mainstream mental healthcare this decade.
In this overview, we created a market map of companies developing cutting-edge neurotech solutions for mental health. By directly interfacing with the brain or nervous system, neurotech can deliver more targeted and personalized treatments that may be more effective for certain individuals where other treatments have failed.
This market map’s focus is neuropsychiatry — which addresses indications like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and ADHD. We also included devices focused on mindfulness. We’ve deliberately excluded most brain-computer interface companies since they are initially focused on addressing speech and motor paralysis, as well as companies concentrating on other conditions (e.g. neurological disorders like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s). Gotta stay focused.
We invite neurotech founders to engage with us, to empower more investors to explore neurotech’s capabilities, and to educate those curious about neurotech for mental health in order to build foundational knowledge to support the space.
We welcome ongoing company suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Non-invasive neurostimulation
Neurostimulation uses electrical or magnetic impulses to stimulate nerves or brain regions for therapeutic purposes. Neurostimulation has been demonstrated to be effective in treating conditions such as depression, anxiety, OCD, and ADHD.
One of the primary advantages of neurostimulation is its ability to target specific brain regions and neural circuits implicated in mental health disorders. For example, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can target brain regions associated with depression (left prefrontal cortex) or OCD (anterior cingulate cortex). This targeted approach allows for personalized treatment plans that can be tailored to each patient's unique neurobiological profile, leading to improved outcomes and reduced side effects.
Neurostimulation can be non-invasive, semi-invasive, or fully invasive. There are several non-invasive stimulation techniques, including TMS, transcranial electrical stimulation (TES), transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), tVNS (transcranial vagus nerve stimulation), and transcranial Focused Ultrasound (tFUS). Each technique uses a different method to deliver a low level of electrical or magentic energy to specific regions of the brain. The goal is to modulate neural activity and/or alter the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain.
2. Invasive neurostimulation
Invasive neurostimulation stimulates the brain through the use of implanted electrodes. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is FDA approved for Parkinson’s and has received FDA breakthrough device designation for Treatment Resistant Depression — this technique involves sending electrical impulses to modulate brain activity via thin wires that are implanted into targeted areas of the brain (the implant is connected to to a pulse generator implanted in to the chest). An alternative invasive approach is Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS), which stimulates the brain via an implanted device under the skin through the vagus nerve. VNS is FDA approved for Difficult to Treat Depression and Epilepsy.
Semi-invasive neurostimulation stimulates the brain through the use of implanted electrodes in a minimally-invasive procedure. Semi-invasive implants are placed outside the dura layer of the brain or under the dura (subdural), but doesn’t touch the brain directly. This technique has the potential of being more effective than non-invasive techniques because currents don’t need to pass through the skull (which has low conductivity). Companies like Motif Neurotech and Inner Cosmos are pursuing FDA approval.
3. Audio/Visual Therapeutics
Audio/visual stimulation devices are a form of neurofeedback that use visual (light) and auditory (sound) stimuli to induce certain brainwave patterns, with the aim of improving mental health and well-being.
An example of audio/visual stimulation devices is brainwave entrainment devices that use sound and/or light to synchronize brainwaves with specific frequencies. These devices can used for relaxation and meditation, as well as to improve focus and attention.
Another example of audio/visual stimulation devices is light therapy devices, which use bright light to stimulate the brain and improve mood. These devices are commonly used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that typically occurs during the winter months. Light therapy devices can also be used to treat other types of depression, as well as sleep disorders.
Neurofeedback uses real-time displays of brain activity using electroencephalogram (EEG) to teach people how to regulate brain function. Electrodes are placed on the scalp or in-ear to record electrical activity in the brain, and the information is fed back to the individual in the form of visual or auditory feedback. Neurofeedback can be used to train people to increase activity in the prefrontal cortex (brain region involved in attention and executive function) or to decrease activity in the amygdala (brain region involved in processing emotions). Newer technologies (like GrayMatters Health) are guiding neurofeedback with neuroimaging (fMRI) biomarkers. Neurofeedback tools are being used to treat conditions like PTSD as well as help with meditation and mindfulness. Some treatments are combined with pharmacological interventions or psychotherapy.
5. Precision Neuroscience
Precision Neuroscience uses neuroimaging, multi-omics (genomics, epigenomics, metabolomics, etc), and bioinformatics (analyzing biological data) to identify biomarkers that can help predict disease risk, diagnosis, and treatment response. With larger data sets, AI and ML can be used to model predictions. This approach allows for personalized treatment plans that can improve outcomes and reduce adverse effects. Precision Neuroscience can be used to in service of diagnostics or drug development. Companies like Alto Neuroscience are using EEG data do their drug development for conditions depression and PTSD.
6. Body Wearables
Body wearables are non-invasive devices designed to monitor, regulate, or stimulate brain activity and nervous system function. Body wearables can track Heart Rate Variable (HRV), Resting Heart Rate (RTR), body temperature, blood oxygen levels, and other physiological data. By leveraging advancements in sensing, data processing, and connectivity, body wearables offer personalized, real-time interventions to support traditional mental health treatments and therapies. Body wearables technologies can measure activity (Whoop or Oura) or attempt to actively intervene with the nervous system through stimulation (Apollo and Lief).
As our understanding of the brain and its underlying mechanisms continues to grow, so does the opportunity for neurotech solutions that will transform mental health care. We at PsyMed Ventures are dedicated to support this growth and contribute to the advancement of the field. By investing in frontier mental health technologies and collaborating with pioneers in neurotech, we aim to drive positive change and improve the lives of millions suffering from mental health disorders around the globe.
A special thank you to those who gave feedback on our project so far:
Quintin Frerichs at Arcadia Medicine
Amy Kruse at Satori Capital
Ariane Tom at Kaleida Capital
Jacob Robinson at Motif Neurotech
& Roxy Wacyk, Advisor/Consultant
About PsyMed Ventures
PsyMed Ventures is a community focused venture capital fund and syndicate investing in frontier technologies that elevate mental health and wellness. This neurotech for mental health overview is an ongoing series as we dive into opportunities in frontier mental health including psychedelic medicine & new compounds, metabolic psychiatry, precision psychiatry, digital therapeutics, and digital health.
If you’re a founder building in the neurotech for mental health space, we’d love to meet you. We at PsyMed Ventures would love to see how we can help. Email us at email@example.com and you can follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Substack.
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