Brain blood flow biofeedback meets affordable IoT technology

Feb 12, 2020

Project update 8 of 10

Shipping Soon!

by Joshua Brewster

We’ve gotten our products into Crowd Supply’s hands. Items are now being processed for shipment, and existing campaign orders are expected to ship in the next few weeks, so please ensure now that your shipping information is correct and up-to-date! You can confirm your order details and update your delivery address within your Crowd Supply account.

You can see the status of your order, including the updated estimated shipping date, in your account as well.


Please note that all instructions and documentation have been provided digitally.You can view all of the docs and download the currently available software and the latest firmware updates here: https://github.com/moothyknight/HEG_ESP32. Be sure to grab the latest update when you receive your device and stay tuned!

There are already updates available for the device for when you receive it as this is a living project, please Star and “Watch” our Github repository for notifications on new software updates.

This is a developer kit that is mainly the work of one dude in an icy cabin in the Far North of Alaska. This is our humble attempt to lay a foundation for the future of open source blood flow biofeedback as inspired by the founders of the field and many others we look up to. We are somewhere between Alpha and Beta on our software, it’s functional but incomplete. We are hard at work polishing the initial interface and activities we provided for our device while continuing to build out the foundation for future hardware and software.

We got new digs for the software!

Progress pics and stuff

Check out the mess we made in our cabin!


As I’ve climbed further down this rabbit hole of electronic, physiological, and mental health mumbo jumbo, I’ve wanted to come around again to what the key ideas of brain-blood flow biofeedback are and how I believe that should inform a very wide array of health and education practices in schools, prisons and rehab programs, and clinics.

The principles of brain-blood flow biofeedback are based on a few simple facts observed about the body. The first main fact is every living thing in your body needs constant blood supply to function and renew itself. With the central nervous system it gets a little more involved, where in order to fire on-time local neurons selectively draw energy from the bloodstream via astrocytes and intricate vasculature, and require quite a bit of energy to do so. So much, in fact, that the brain uses up to 40% of your daily energy, and 20% just in resting state.

You can see just how much blood flow occupies your mind!
A 50 micron chunk of brain reveals extremely intricate capillary networks. Source

Without fresh energy - if your support organs stop doing their jobs, or if there is regional damage due to physical trauma or cumulative and/or traumatic stress effects - those neurons quit functioning right. 5 minutes without any energy supply and those neurons rapidly atrophy and die. Cumulative or traumatic stress limit or even regress our development and maturation, too, and some of the markers are reduced haemodynamic response and cortical blood perfusion. We can help remediate and even begin to heal such effects directly by increasing energy availability through brain-blood flow exercise while improving our general health in tandem.

This is the basic neural system structure. Astrocytes and oligodentrocytes are types of glia like microglia, each with special functions. There are also pericytes at blood vessel junctions to help regulate blood flow in tandem with astrocytes, and several other cell types not shown.

The second main fact is your body needs constant movement to grow, and the kind of movement you give it determines how your body grows. This is as simple as training your arms and legs and feeling your arms and legs adapt and grow in response, but this idea applies directly to brain and cognitive development, too. You can’t become proficient in any skills without practice, and your body builds itself by what you practice.

Synapses are actually “tripartite” systems where Astrocytes regulate neurotransmission as well as provide the energy for the whole neural system, acting as the "blood-brain barrier." These astrocytes form a fundamental layer of connectivity between neurons due to their own essential neurotransmission roles.

A rule of thumb with neurons is that they have to “fire to wire,” as in, neural network development happens primarily by the movement of energy through the nervous system, defining preferential circuits - therefore dominant mental states and problem solving abilities. This means all of your cognitive and physical skills are defined and tuned by this physical process. All of your bad habits are, too, and addiction is an example of this process pushed to extremes. Brain blood flow training provides a conditioning tool to help brains fire when we are trying to wire it for our skills or for better health. The general increase in energy can also greatly soften the impact of stress and help us build true resilience.

A colorized electron microscope image of neural tissue where the big cell bodies are neurons and the smaller ones are glia. You can get an idea just how intricately tied together everything is in your brain at impossibly small scales. Source

While we have a massive amount of incredible structures and instinctual abilities built into our bodies by our genes, all of our social and higher order linguistic functions are developed through interpersonal exchange and related practices like parenting and school. However, there are nuances to how physical feedback and social feedback are intricately intermingled in our overall life learning and the abilities we accumulate. This is mainly tied to the relationship between A. Cognitive processing and the demanding physical requirements for our nervous system to develop, train, and maintain itself; and B. The environment we create for learning and the slants toward different cognitive modes created therein. To clarify B, I simply mean the difference between a stressful, ideologized or survival-based learning environment and a stress-free environment that meets our fairly complex needs as human beings while enabling critical consciousness.

A trippy pic of a group of neurons (green), astrocytes (blue), and capillaries (red) in a mouse brain. I’m not totally sure what I’m looking at. Source

This leads back to the idea of using physical education in everything - from letting kids run around on the playground and do physics experiments in the lab - and often, to integrating these insights in brain health and development to inform every aspect of school curriculum just like we already consider, say, brain development phases in early childhood education through high school. This could help schools, prisons, rehab programs, and clinics all help students, incarcerated people, and patients all stay focused on integrating the core essentials of maintaining their mind-body connection in every aspect of their life, and how that impacts and eventually accelerates their future choices and abilities. This could dramatically improve people’s emotional resilience and vital inner strength for learning and healing. For the general public it’s just as useful for these reasons while the need might not be as obvious. A healthier society forms the foundation for a healthier world, and boy do we need that in this hour.

A Call to Action

HEG is not a requirement to educate people on the information I’ve presented here. However, the HEG device often gets most of these points across to individuals in a deeper physical way after just one or a few go’s with it in tandem with the informational education. It and devices just like it also show promise as a primary intervention for a whole slew of conditions. This device to me speaks as potentially being an essential tool in firmly grounding our growth and healing as human beings in this wild, wild world.

If this comes to be your view, too, there is work to be done researching and integrating these tools in affordable ways into the wider world, so we can canonize it as part of a public health initiative for a widely applicable and non-invasive brain health intervention. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas, mean-time it’s back to work for me.


I’d also like to announce I’m soon to receive my first prototypes of V2 HEGduino hardware (currently delayed due to the coronavirus quarantines) utilizing state of the art chips as part of this open hardware initiative. Our working title for it: The Delobotomizer. This will allow much better pulse oximetry and will be fast enough to potentially pick up brain waves in your cerebral fluid! Woah, dude! Onward to adventure!

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