Virtual Reality System May Help Diagnose Parkinson’s

DiagnaMed says it will be a game-changer for neurodegenerative diseases

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by Andrea Lobo |

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This is an illustration of a doctor and a patient engaged in a telehealth appointment.

DiagnaMed Holdings will develop a virtual reality and artificial intelligence tool (VR/AI Neuro) for the diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.

The company acquired an exclusive worldwide license of intellectual property from the KU Center for Technology Commercialization, at the University of Kansas, for the development and commercial rights of VR/AI Neuro.

The system aims to assist in the diagnosis and monitoring of neurological disorders for clinical and telemedicine use.

“We are excited to advance the development of a novel virtual reality and artificial intelligence neurodiagnostic system that will aim to change the way neurodegenerative diseases are diagnosed and managed,” Fabio Chianelli, chairman of DiagnaMed board, said in a press release.

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A doctor and patient use a computer for a teleheath visit.

Algorithm to ID Voice Changes May Aid in Early Detection of Parkinson’s

An early and accurate diagnosis of neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s disease is crucial for proper treatment. However, for some patients a correct diagnosis can be difficult, considering the clinical evaluation can be time-consuming and often requires patients to travel to a different city to consult a specialist.

There are not many remote procedures or adjuvant methods that can help clinicians conveniently and consistently evaluate patients with suspected neurological disorders.

VR/AI Neuro aims to diagnose Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders remotely using a low-cost method to reach an accurate diagnosis in less time, and reducing  transportation costs for patients.

The system uses a commercially available VR display, with an infrared camera integrated into the lens, to construct a 3D virtual environment that evaluates patients’ eye movements in videos, while interfacing with a physician who is in a different location.

The VR/AI Neuro evaluates eye movements, such as fixating on a point, conducting smooth pursuit of an object, or executing saccades. Saccades are quick, abrupt, and precise simultaneous movements of the eyes, important for reading.

For the diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases, the system develops virtual tasks to elicit eye movements commonly associated with the neurological disorders, such as abnormal saccades, fixation instability, and ocular tremors.

The research and development of this novel system has been underway for some time and involves the Kansas University Medical Center and the Augusta University in the U.S., and Osaka University in Japan.

Proof-of-concept study

The team of researchers conducted a proof-of-concept study with nine Parkinson’s patients and seven healthy controls, to test if the VR/AI Neuro system could mimic the tasks used for clinical evaluation. Eye records were analyzed using eye-tracking algorithms and image enhancement for a short follow-up.

The results of this preliminary study showed that the VR/AI system could evoke five common types of eye movements usable for evaluation, and two physicians could confirm three (of four) abnormalities. The obtained visualizations then were rated for their potential role for a Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Considering the promising results, the next step will be to adapt the tests created in the original research to the updated VR/AI system and implement it into a clinical setting for Parkinson’s disease patients. The company expects this step to be concluded by mid 2023.

This new technology will complement DiagnaMed’s proposed solutions for the digital diagnosis of neurological disorders.

These solutions include BrainAGE, an electroencephalogram (EEG)-based artificial intelligence device to assess an individual’s brain age. EEG is a test that measures the brain’s electrical activity using small metal discs attached to the head. The assessment of the brain’s aging might be an important factor for the early detection of mental health and neurological disorders.

Monitoring tremors

The company also is developing BrainTremor, a smart bracelet to detect and monitor tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease. Such a device can provide data for early Parkinson’s diagnosis and be a reliable tool to assess the effects of medication. The researchers are adjusting the device’s shape and size to create a prototype that can be tested in clinical evaluation.

“We are focused on developing and commercializing next-generation digital diagnostic tools for brain health in mental health and neurological disorders. The VR/AI Neuro system complements our product development programs, including BRAIN AGE and BrainTremor, to ensure a full suite of evaluation solutions for healthcare providers to manage their patient’s conditions effectively,” Chianelli said.