Israeli startup GrayMatters treats PTSD with avatars

Treating PTSD using avatars credit GrayMatters
Treating PTSD using avatars credit GrayMatters

GrayMatters received US FDA approval for marketing its technology in March and after the start of the Israel-Hamas war received approval in Israel.

Israeli companies are in the forefront of innovative treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Earlier this month GrayMatters was named the Prix Galien USA Best Startup 2023 winner. In March, GrayMatters received US FDA approval for marketing its technology.

GrayMatters was founded by CEO Oded Kraft and chairman Rani Cohen, based on technology developed at Tel Aviv University by Prof. Talma Hendler. "We have begun initial sales in the US, and at the same time we began procedures to gain approval in Israel. From the moment that events began unfolding, we decided that we need to place more emphasis on Israel," Cohen says. "We asked Israel's Ministry of Health to take note that this technology is needed at home and we plan to invest in Israel." Cohen added that within a few weeks Ministry of Health approval was granted.

The company has raised $20 million to date and investors include the European Innovation Authority, Japanese company OMD, which has received certain rights for the product in Asia, Joy Ventures, J-Impact Ventures, Marius Nacht and Joyance Ventures.

The technology developed by GrayMatters together with Prof. Hendler uses AI software and an EEG headset device to read biomarker activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain which is overactive in people suffering from PTSD.

Cohen says, "An overactive amygdala can explain the overstimulation in PTSD patients, their difficulty in sleeping and increased anxiety. Prof. Hendler has indicated that it is possible to show patients a visualization of their amygdala activity and instruct them with biofeedback methods in gradually reducing its activity. When they have a specific indication regarding the activity of the amygdala, they manage to control it and moderate its activity."

The treatment offered by the company is administered during 15 visits each lasting 30 minutes, in which the patients see avatars in front of them that they have to move. For example make them go from a standing position to sitting. Each patient does this in their own way. One might think of a loved one, another might count slowly to 15, while another could try not to think of anything. When something is "perceived", the avatar sits, and the patient can continue in the same way that has worked for them.

Cohen continues, "We see an improvement in both amygdala activity and the clinical results, at a level not seen before. Gradually the patients learn to reduce activity in the amygdala by themselves, without the device. Not everybody achieves the same results but for a group of them, the treatment can be very significant."

The device has been installed in Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon and Maale Hacarmel Mental Health Medical Center in Haifa. At the same time, the company is conducting clinical trials at six European hospitals.

"With the help of the training, it is possible reduce the invasive thoughts and the traumatic narrative that gets 'stuck' and very much disturbs being able to move on," says Barzilai Hospital's Dr. Daniela Amiel. "This training helps to regain the feeling of control over thoughts. We are of course in favor of therapy to talk about things, but there is an advantage to this therapy, which is not based on any chemistry with the therapist. It works objectively."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on November 30, 2023.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.

Treating PTSD using avatars credit GrayMatters
Treating PTSD using avatars credit GrayMatters
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