Blog: The Story of PRO-SYNC: Why Everyone Needs Brain Performance Technology
In 2015, I was first introduced to a military grade prototype of EYE-SYNC. Prior to that, I had read little and heard even less about the clinical utility of eye movement assessments in acute conditions such as concussion. However, when I develop an insatiable curiosity about something novel (and potentially game changing) I become relentless in my pursuit of new knowledge. Which is exactly what happened. I read everything I could find on the topic, including studies dating back to the 1960’s where eye movement assessments were first introduced in schizophrenia patients. I was fascinated. One thought, however, lingered above the rest, and stayed with me for years. I continually asked myself this question over and over again.
“Why do we have to wait for an injury to occur to identify deficiencies?”
I’ve been thinking about this question every day for the past 7 years. This single question led me to the working hypothesis that perhaps many of us could improve our brain function, especially if we were carrying around previously unidentified sub clinical deficits. And we would have to go a step further than just identification, we would also need strategies to remediate. For special populations like athletes, soldiers, pilots, and CEO’s, that would not even be enough – we would need to provide a path to optimization.
The need for PRO-SYNC really came into focus when we tested our hypothesis. After 4 years of baseline testing elite athletes at Stanford, we found that over 40% had subclinical deficits that contributed to poor brain performance. Furthermore, we found that cognitive fatigue was the most common factor responsible for degraded performance. So when I built a Brain Performance testing location inside the varsity weight room shortly thereafter, I wanted to understand the most important question of all.
“Can it be improved?”
What we found was remarkable. When we implemented recovery strategies on the fatigued population, these deficits became manageable and resolved secondary risks such as musculoskeletal injury. Then, when we initiated training protocols, the deficits improved and often resolved entirely. In the same way providing targeted therapies addresses deficits after concussion, the otherwise “normal” population demonstrated that they too could benefit from screening, monitoring, and training. For the first time in my career as a healthcare provider, I truly felt like I was being proactive with my patients.
And the concept for PRO-SYNC was born.
Today, many years later, we launch our first non-medical Brain Performance solution intended for all humans. With our original hypothesis in mind, and after hundreds of hours of testing and refinement, we deliver a mechanism for objectively capturing and improving brain state activity in otherwise normal people. Some product highlights include:
The Performance Index Rating (PIR)
With a novel cognitive screening battery in tow, we can objectively capture and score critical areas of cognition. Using a series of 30 second tests, PRO-SYNC captures the following domains each, and rates them on a scale of 0-100:
- Working Memory
- Inhibitory Control
- Visual Stability
In the performance report, each domain is displayed as an individual score. The Performance Index Rating (PIR) provides an aggregate score of each combined test completed. Upon test completion, the PIR can be compared against prior PIR’s of the same individual, and against other members of the same organization. This allows for thoughtful comparison of self vs. others in a similar population over time.
The Readiness Indicator
In our studies, we found that the brain does some strange things when it is tired. First, it moves and lands the eyes in the wrong place more frequently, requiring it to make additional subsequent moves in order to visually process information effectively. The more fatigued, the more errors it makes, and the more time is spent on processing. These errors primarily affect our spatial awareness and can often be identified in various forms of altered sensorimotor control. Secondly, the coordination between eyes reduces significantly leading to increased cognitive energy spent to focus, maintain attention, and sustain concentration over time. Both lead to decreased overall awareness, slowed learning, and poor comprehension.
Using a unique AI driven model, we can quickly identify the presence of these eye movement discrepancies, thereby confirming a fatigued brain state. Because these changes can occur simultaneously or independently, we provide an indicator that highlights the presence of the fatigued eye movement signature and the subsequent type that is identified.
A major benefit of a Virtual Reality based platform is its ability to recreate the multi-dimensional and multisensory experiences our brain has to interact with throughout the day. Under various circumstances the brain must leverage various cognitive domains together to identify, capture, interpret and respond to, all while doing it at a repetitiously high level. Creating immersive experiences and environments in VR allow for this to be trained, without the fear of failure or the consequences that come with poor decision making.
Our immersive environments create a safe and engaging context in which to deliberately practice and improve the deficits identified through the screening process. For example, if working memory and teaming are deficient, those can be improved through a specific domain of training. As the platform grows, so too will our library of specific environments where the demand for brain performance optimization is highest – the playing fields, the cockpits, and more.
Today, the story of PRO-SYNC is about how an idea can evolve into a solution an unknowingly underserved population can truly benefit from. In the future, the PRO-SYNC story will be about how it allowed everyone to reach and sustain their cognitive potential.