“Addressing Racial and Phenotypic Bias in Emerging Non-invasive Neurotechnologies”

The Case School of Engineering and Case Advancements Fellows Program will host Jasmine Kwasa, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Neuroscience Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, for a Case School of Engineering Seminar event.

Kwasa will present “Addressing Racial and Phenotypic Bias in Emerging Non-invasive Neurotechnologies” Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 11:30 a.m. in Millis Hall’s Schmitt Auditorium.

Talk abstract

To provide quality care for all, biomedical engineers must develop effective and equitable medical solutions. Recent work from Kwasa’s team showed that typical EEG systems, the standard of care for neurological monitoring (e.g., epilepsy), do not work well for individuals with the coarse, dense and curly hair common in the Black population (Etienne et al., 2020; IEEE EMBC). With more than 1 billion individuals of African descent across the globe, this not only compromises care for a significant portion of the population but also excludes these groups from basic neuroscience research studies. 

The team developed the first solution to this problem by creating Sèvo Systems, a simple yet effective set of devices that leverage the strength of braided hair to improve scalp contact during brain recordings in individuals with coarse, dense and curly hair. The team demonstrated, in a lab setting, that Sèvo lowers electrode-to-scalp impedance compared to standard electrodes tenfold. 

In this talk, Kwasa will describe the Sèvo system and outline the team’s ongoing assessments of its effectiveness in both research and clinical settings. This work is the first step toward mitigating phenotypic biases embedded in this popular technology that may lead to misdiagnosis in the clinic and misunderstanding of brain science in research settings.

Biography

Jasmine Kwasa is an NIH K00 postdoctoral fellow in the Neuroscience Institute at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Kwasa earned her BS from Washington University in St. Louis, her MS from Boston University (both in biomedical engineering), and her PhD in electrical and computer engineering from CMU. 

Her ongoing postdoctoral research seeks to develop neurotechnologies, such as EEG and fNIRS, optimized for coarse, curly hair and dark pigmentation (melanin) with collaborators at CMU. She is also a neuro-ethicist and writes about the future of inclusive neurotech and the history of racial bias in neuroscience, medicine and technology. 

Kwasa has received several honors throughout her training, including being named a Ford Foundation Fellow, an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, a Society for Neuroscience fellow, and a “Rising Star in Biomedical Sciences” by MIT. In her free time, Jasmine is a dance fitness instructor, and enjoys travel and quality time with her family.