Julian’s personal story

Why living brain is so close to our hearts:

 

julian's personal story

living brain, neurotherapy out of conviction Our startup story has a personal background. Julian Specht, co-founder of our company, had been suffering from epilepsy since the age of 10. More precisely, he suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy, which caused him to be caught of guard by epileptic seizures several times a day. Swimming, cycling, going into town on his own – all of these things were potentially risky for him. What if he had a seizure on the bike? Epilepsy was a constant companion and a massive restriction on his life.

At 18, the doctors gave him a sobering prognosis. They explain to him that medication would no longer help him and that only brain surgery could bring improvement. The seizure focus for Julian’s epilepsy is in his right temporal lobe, an area directly above the ear. The doctors suggest surgically removing the seizure focus so that Julian no longer has seizures. The prospect of a seizure-free life is tempting and Julian deliberates.

julian with vr glasses

He thinks long and hard and does extensive research – if the operation goes well, he can lead a normal life, self-determined and free. However, such an operation also involves risks – what if something goes wrong? He reads scientific studies, researches case studies and statistics. If the surgery fails, he could be severely disabled, severely cognitively impaired or even dead. It is a difficult decision. He is now studying psychology at universtiy and has many plans for his future – what if he has more restrictions after the operation than before?

Finally, he asks his doctors what he can do if he wakes up from the anesthetic with cognitive impairment – after all, the risk is high. The answer is a sobering one. As the region of the brain affected by his epilepsy is responsible for his memory, the aim of the therapy would be memory training.

The doctors describe exercises with pen and paper – he should then practise solving mazes or completing number sequences. They also mention computer-assisted training, in which he has to recognize patterns and click the mouse in a certain order. The doctors don’t seem convinced themselves and neither is Julian.

Nevertheless, he decides to go through with the procedure as it is his only chance of a carefree life.

The surgery is set for October 1st 2015. The surgeons open his skull and resect 6 centimeters of his brain. The operation is a success! When Julian wakes up, he has a headache and his face is green and blue, but he is fine and can remember everything. He has no complaints, no problems, no restrictions. And just two weeks later he is back at university – relieved and seizure-free. Yet despite the successful operation, Julian has not forgotten his fear and uncertainty. The fear of cognitive impairment and an outdated therapy that his doctors did not believe would be successful. He knows he’s not the only one facing this. Even though he was lucky, many others are not.

When Julian meets his fellow student Barbara in the 4th semester and tells her his story, she is just as shocked and outraged as he is. They wonder:
Why can’t the current training be applied to everyday life?
What would a training program that restores everyday skills need?
How could functional cognitive rehabilitation be designed?

The two are determined to find a solution to help people and create a real perspective for patients in neurotherapy. They want to take away some of the fear and uncertainty that has plagued Julian and develop a real, effective therapy. The idea of a start-up grows out of many discussions and considerations. Already during their studies they are developing the first prototypes of their software. The project grows and they take part in the first ideas competitions, eventually founding living brain after graduating.

Their drive and conviction are infectious, and after the first support programmes Tilll Ikemann joins the team as a freelancer and then as the first employee. Shortly after the GmbH was founded in 2019, he joined living brain as the third shareholder. The three of them form the core of living brain and put their vision into practice.