Unlocking the invisible world of the brain: Rezon’s wearable neuroimaging tech


At this year’s Connected North conference, the inaugural Start-up Competition saw ten shortlisted start-ups take to the stage to present their business to a panel of expert judges.

We caught up with Judith McMinn, founder of winning start-up Rezon, to learn more about the company’s concussion-reducing headband and how they are integrating wearable brain electroencephalogram (EEG) technology.

Judith McMinn, founder of Rezon, celebrates winning the Connected North startup competition

Firstly, congratulations on winning the startup competition at this year’s Connected North! Tell us a little about your background and how you came up with the idea for Rezon?

Thank you!

My professional background is in management consulting, so I’m a problem solver by trade, and the core idea behind Rezon is actually to do with a problem I first encountered in childhood.

Like many people, I played hockey as a child, and I often wondered why we protected our shins and our teeth, but not our brain. Protective gear in sport is typically designed to protect the scalp, like scrum caps, or the head more generally, like helmets, but very little is done to protect the brain itself.

In the last few years there’s been a growing awareness around brain injury in sport, particularly in American football with CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and, more recently, in rugby. Identifying concussions have been a major focus for both the media and sporting bodies, but its sub-concussions – small force impacts that are around 500 times more frequent than concussions – that are also causing major lasting damage to the brain.

And there’s little being done to protect against this.

What makes these sub-concussions so dangerous? 

Well, it’s really important to understand the physicality of the brain. When a head impact occurs, rotational forces cause the brain to rotate inside the skull, and when the brain rotates it tears brain cells and tiny blood vessels, creating inflammation.

Sub-concussions like this are caused by just a quarter of the force of a regular concussion and, unlike full concussions, they’re completely asymptomatic.

However, over the years, with thousands of impacts taking place, the damage accumulates, contributing to neurological conditions like early-onset dementia, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, memory issues, and much more.

For example, research tells us that if you’ve had 1,000,000 radians per second (the measure of rotational acceleration, i.e., rotational force) applied to your brain, your risk of CTE is increased by 22%. Head impacts in sport can often be up to 8,000–9,000 radians per second in a game of football or rugby, so in many cases we’re talking just 100–200 impacts to pass that threshold.

For reference, the average rugby player will likely take1,500 sub-concussions a season! The average football player will take 600. So, the scale of this issue is enormous, and for every player, not just those in professional sport.

We knew very quickly that we needed to find a way to reduce those rotational forces on the brain, and partially in sub-concussive impacts, so this was the focus for our Halos headband.

Tell us more about the Halos headband and how it works?

In 2020, I started investigating brain health more deeply and began bringing together brain and manufacturing experts to create a solution.

After two years of research, we created our Halos headband, which is a patented design of nine layers of material. As the head is impacted, some of those layers deform and move over each other, essentially reducing the energy that’s delivered to the brain.

Our studies have shown that wearing the Halos can reduce rotational forces by up to 61%. We also had it tested by Virginia Tech, who gave it 5-stars after finding it to reduce the risk of concussion by 74%.

We’ve worked hard to ensure that the headband is sport agnostic, gender agonistic, and age agnostic. That’s really important, because protecting your brain needs to start early in life. You don’t get early onset dementia just because you turned up at the Manchester United Academy or you started playing for Harlequins as a young adult. You get it because you started playing at three or four and have accumulated damage since then.

Of course, every brain is unique. There are some people who can take thousands and thousands of impacts with no obvious consequences, and other people, sadly, where the threshold is much lower. But we know that the threshold is lower in women, and we know it’s lower in children, so these groups are particularly vulnerable.

We’re a British company formed in County Durham and we make our protective headband here in the UK. It’s fully recyclable and carbon footprint of the band is just 0.4kg, so the equivalent of driving a mile in the car.

We brought our protective headband to market in the spring of 2022, and we are now used 18 sports, varying from the traditional sports associated with head impacts like rugby and football all the way to more unconventional sports like handball and quadball, which people would know as quidditch.

Now, with our US-partner Cogwear, we’re putting brain monitoring tech within the Halos to wearers to better understand their own brain health.

Tell us more about this collaboration with Cogware

The Rezon Halos headband with neuroimaging tech from Cogwear

What Cogware have developed is the world’s first in-motion clinical-grade EEG  technology, which measures your brain activity. EEG itself is not a new technology, but it’s traditionally been incredibly bulky, costly and inconvenient – it usually requires you to sit in a darkened room with a big swim cap on, told not to move, don’t sneeze, don’t talk… Cogwear have miniaturised the technology so that it’s about the size of your thumb.

We’ve combined this with our Halos design, meaning that wearing the headband can provide you with clinical grade brain data in real-time. People can baseline their brain health in the comfort of their own home or their own changing room before sport begins, so that they can properly assess the severity of impacts during the game. This will allow us to diagnose concussions and sub-concussions as they happen, keeping players safer and helping to determine when or if they are fit to return to play.

All brains are different, and the best way to monitor brain health is to monitor your brain against your brain. We’re giving people a real-time view of their brain activity so they can make more informed decisions.

Being able to measure brainwaves in action like this is very exciting! Are there any other applications for this technology you’re currently exploring?

Well, what’s really interesting about this technology is that it can measure not just damage from collisions, but all kinds of performance elements. Brainwaves can reveal a lot about our metal state, from stress to concentration levels.

For example, we’ve been doing work in the US focussed on golf, and we can now accurately predict the shot that a golfer’s going to take by monitoring the brain.

That is the groundbreaking when it comes to understanding sporting performance. Who has the best mental state to take the match-winning penalty kick? What does an elite athlete’s brain look like? How does my brain handle an intense training session? These are all questions this very sophisticated neurotechnology will help to answer and that has big implications for the sporting world and beyond.

We envisage the Halos being used for coaching and training, as well as for protection.

Our focus has always been on unlocking the invisible world of the brain, and doing so in a flexible way that suits the individual. The brain is slowly becoming more understood through sophisticated neuroimaging, and I think this is going to change the conversation. Soon people will begin thinking about their brains in terms of diet or fitness, like any other body part.

Want to know more about Rezon, brain health, and concussion protection? Join Judith and Rezon at Connected Britain 2024! Get your tickets now

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