Stimulate the brain: This device offers mental health solutions from the comfort of your home

StimVeda, a start-up by IIIT Delhi grad Ramya Yellapragada, has developed a headband that can stimulate the brain without any invasion
The device | Pics: StimVeda
The device | Pics: StimVeda

It was while she was studying at IIIT Delhi that a shocking incident with her friend and roommate altered Ramya Yellapragada's outlook on mental health. Her roommate had made an unsuccessful attempt to take her own life and Ramya knew that she just wanted to help her any way she could. "I spoke to her and tried to understand what she was facing. She was depressed and the antidepressants she was on weren't helping," recalls Ramya. Curiosity piqued and the desire to help her friend made Ramya dabble with Behavioural Sciences while at college. "I began to take courses online as I wanted to understand how the brain functions at such times. I learnt that it's a combination of chemical and electrical impulses. The antianxiety or antidepressant medications didn't address these," says Ramya. She needed to find an alternative. 

Shortly after completing her graduation, Ramya chose to continue her mental health research. "Instead of taking up a job, I decided to enrol at Plaksha University," says Ramya. It was at the Tech Leaders Program here that Ramya decided to launch her start-up called StimVeda. "I met several doctors, neuroscientists and other like-minded individuals who mentored my co-founder and me to launch the start-up," she adds. 

Ramya Yellapragada and Lakshay Sahni, Co-founders, StimVeda

So, what is it that StimVeda is doing? "We have developed a device that's currently in trials at AIIMS Delhi. It's the first line of treatment for people undergoing mental health issues before they go for medication," explains Ramya, who graduated with a degree in Computer Science and Computational Biology from IIIT. After completing the foundational course at Plaksha, Ramya enrolled in the entrepreneurship programme as well. "My co-founder, Lakshay Sahni, was also into neuroscience and had done some projects with neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence while in college. We met at Plaksha University and decided to start the venture together," says Ramya. 

The device looks like a headband that has to be worn and has a mobile application connected to it. "The treatment can be done at home and is as effective as several drugs in the market. The user wears the headband for a completely non-invasive brain stimulation procedure for 30 minutes in the morning and in the evening for a period of 10 days," says Ramya. The application tracks the device's performance. After the initial 10-day period, users can wear it again once or twice a week depending on their needs. "The application also suggests some tasks that the user has to do while wearing the headband to initiate proper stimulation," says the 24-year-old.  

The product will go into mass manufacturing shortly, says Ramya, and will hit the market by July 2022. StimVeda, which is based out of Gurugram, is incubated at NASSCOM's Centre of Excellence for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. "The technology we are using isn't new. Brain stimulation has been approved in various countries in Europe and in countries like South Korea, Singapore and Australia. We are among the first to bring an at-home treatment in India," states Ramya, adding that the technology has been developed after research spanning 30 years. 

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