NeuraLight aims to track ALS, Parkinson’s and more with regular webcams.

The process of diagnosing and tracking the progression of neurological disorders is often lengthy and imprecise, involving surveys, hospital visits, and direct observations that require expert interpretation on the fly. NeuraLight claims it’s made in a better way that only uses a regular webcam and can have a big impact on how it handles these conditions. The company raised $25 million to build a team and put the method in the hands of doctors.

Lack of standardization is a major problem in the diagnosis and tracking of neurological disorders. It is extremely difficult to detect something like Alzheimer’s at an early stage with a single approach because it is so complex and often slow to develop.

In fact, it is presumed that the prevalence of misdiagnosis in the field is not due to the lack of rigor of caregivers, but simply due to the level of variability in the process. Now imagine you have a group of people diagnosed with a disability and about a quarter of them may actually not have it. How can you be sure that the treatment you are testing is effective? Mitigating this trust crisis in data requires objective metrics, and that’s what Austin- and Tel Aviv-based NeuraLight is building.

CEO Micha Breakstone, who sold former company Chorus for $575 million, met co-founder Eddie Ben-Ami and was fascinated by his research potential.

“It sounds a bit crazy, but there are basically no objective indicators of neurological disorders. “You can’t develop a drug for a disease that can’t be measured,” he said. “He developed this technique to represent cognitive load by collecting these micro-parameters from the eye.”

Image Credits: Neuralite

This, along with other eye movements and metrics, has been associated with neurological disorders in numerous publications over the years. However, it was not a useful technique for measuring disease progression because it uses specialized equipment and expert analysis.

NeuraLight uses standard off-the-shelf webcams and applies modern image analysis technology. We were able to confirm that it was as accurate as professional eye trackers costing tens of thousands of dollars,” said Breakstone. (“Crazy,” he added.)

Now it could be used in a future clinical setting for home neurological testing, but may have to wait for FDA approval and more tests. Fortunately, the analysis the company performs on eye images can be useful even before making serious medical claims, as it can be applied retrospectively to other data, such as past clinical trials. And that’s what pharmaceutical companies are willing to pay for.

“I took Flatiron’s page from here. In essence, we are tagging data,” Breakstone explained. “For example, if you know that 250 out of 1000 people with Parkinson’s disease don’t suffer… Since it’s new data, it’s not considered cherry-picking or p-hacking, and you can re-analyze the data. It can be incredibly high.”

Because eye movement has long been known as an important indicator of brain health, a lot of research has been done in this area. However, more detailed analysis may lead to new findings from existing studies or to faster and better indicator detection in clinical settings.

A meeting in the office showing a digital readout of a prisoner's face.

A casual meeting in the NeuraLight office, everyone wearing plain shirts.

As before, there are no claims of diagnosis or treatment here, but as an unprecedented and objective measure of neurological disease, NeuraLight’s measurements can still help doctors diagnose and track these conditions.

In particular, tracking is an important issue. These days, it is difficult for people who come to the hospital for examinations, and even more so for those whose neurological disease is worsening. If indicators of progress or successful treatment are visible through the user’s home webcam, as Breakstone envisioned, “at best, we could do the test twice a week instead of coming to see someone once a quarter. In a standard Zoom call, we can call You can get a full neurological evaluation passively and without stimulation.”

It’s still a long way off, but we’ve already completed testing on hundreds of healthy volunteers for controls, and we’re about to start research to create agents that detect ALS. For fast-moving variants of this (and other) disorders, finding and starting treatment even a few months earlier is very beneficial for results.

Experiments and partnerships are also underway to build models for identifying signs of Parkinson’s, MS, Alzheimer’s and subtypes.

The company raised $5.5 million last October and is currently running a $25 million round led by Koch Disruptive Technologies with Breyer Capital, Samsung NEXT, VSC Ventures, Chris Mansi, David Golan and Lily Sarafan participating.

The funding will help build the team that Breakstone has already claimed to be world-class, and continue to build the infrastructure and products.

“Our ultimate goal is to set new standards for neurological disorders, progression, monitoring and diagnosis, but starting constrained as a decision-making tool,” he said. “We are on an urgent mission to make a real impact. This is not academic.”

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