Researchers are Developing Analytics to Combat Dementia Using Mobile Sensor Data

Friday, April 15, 2022

WNCG professor Edison Thomaz and fellow researchers from The University of Texas at Austin have received a 4-year R01 grant award from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to study "Digital Biomarkers and Analytics for Cognitive Impairment with Mobile and Wearable Sensing."

Jared Benge and Justin Rousseau from the Dell Medical School and Rosemary Lester-Smith of the UT Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences are collaborating on the project.

Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) is a growing epidemic, and in the absence of effective treatment, disease burden increases as the population ages. ADRDs are difficult and costly diseases to treat, affecting millions of people in the U.S alone. Advancing early detection and prediction of this devastating and highly-debilitating condition is essential to the future of treatment for these conditions. Harnessing the capabilities of sensors in personal devices, state-of-the art machine learning techniques, and visual analytics provides an unprecedented opportunity to redefine the paradigm of care and improve quality of life.

The researchers are attempting to advance new computational approaches and analytics to identify digital biomarkers for ADRD detection, prediction and monitoring outside the clinic. This technology-driven approach is based on sensor data passively acquired from smartphones and wearables, and provides the foundation for assessment through continuous monitoring.

The work builds on state-of-the-art research techniques in behavior and context recognition, speech analysis, and machine learning to identify digital biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. A novel visual analytics interface will assist physicians and health practitioners in interacting with the acquired sensor data, validating the digital biomarkers, verifying model results, and forecasting the progression of disease.

“It is very difficult to monitor the trajectory of cognitive impairment and come up with effective and precise ways to intervene,” said assistant professor Edison Thomaz. “This research will let us develop a more objective and continuous measure of the disease without imposing an additional burden on patients."

"I am thrilled to be bringing Texas ECE together with a stellar group of colleagues from across campus to tackle this urgent problem," he added.

Ideally the research will have similar benefits to the treatment of other common neuro-cognitive conditions, such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

Read more via Texas ECE.