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Smartphone app can detect signs of Alzheimer’s disease and ADHD based on a selfie of your EYE

Now that’s catchy! Scientists are developing a smartphone app that can detect signs of neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and ADHD, based on a selfie of your EYE

  • Previous studies show that pupil size can provide information about neuro function
  • To measure pupil size, doctors currently perform a pupil response test
  • It requires specialized equipment and can only be done in a lab or clinic
  • Instead, scientists have developed a smartphone app that can measure the pupil
  • In testing, they showed it to be as accurate as clinical testing

Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that affects one in 14 people aged 65 and over, but there is currently no simple or reliable test for the disease.

Now scientists have developed a smartphone app which they believe could detect signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions – based on a selfie of the eye.

The app tracks changes in pupil size, which University of California San Diego researchers say could be used to assess a person’s cognitive state.

“While there is still a lot of work to be done, I am excited about the potential for using this technology to take neurological screening out of the clinical lab and into the home,” said Colin Barry, first author of the ‘study.

“We hope this will open the door to further explorations of using smartphones to detect and monitor potential health issues earlier.”

The app uses a smartphone’s near-infrared camera to detect the pupil and calculate its size with sub-millimeter precision. Meanwhile, the smartphone’s selfie camera is used to take a color photo, capturing the distance between the smartphone and the user. This allows the app to convert the pupil size of the near infrared image to millimeter units

How does the app work?

The app uses a smartphone’s near-infrared camera to detect the pupil and calculate its size with sub-millimeter precision.

Meanwhile, the smartphone’s selfie camera is used to take a color photo, capturing the distance between the smartphone and the user.

This allows the application to convert the pupil size of the near infrared image to millimeter units.

The team also worked with seniors to ensure the smartphone app was user-friendly.

Key features include voice commands, image-based instructions, and an inexpensive plastic bezel to direct the user to the correct position.

The pupil is the dark circle in the center of the eye that works to let light in and focus the retina so you can see.

Previous research has shown that pupil size can provide information about a person’s neurological functions.

For example, pupil size increases when a person performs a difficult cognitive task or hears an unexpected sound.

To measure pupil size, healthcare providers currently perform what is called a pupil response test.

It requires specialized and expensive equipment, and can only be done in a laboratory or clinic.

In their new study, the team set out to develop a more accessible and affordable solution.

“A scalable smartphone-based assessment tool that can be used for large-scale community screenings could facilitate the development of student response tests as minimally invasive and inexpensive tests to aid in the detection and understanding of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease,” said Professor Eric Granholm, professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

The app uses a smartphone’s near-infrared camera to detect the pupil and calculate its size with sub-millimeter precision.

Most smartphones now have a built-in infrared camera for facial recognition – including the OnePlus 8 Pro, iPhone X and later, and Samsung Galaxy S8 and later.

Meanwhile, the smartphone’s selfie camera is used to take a color photo, capturing the distance between the smartphone and the user.

Scientists have developed a smartphone app they believe could detect signs of Alzheimer's disease and other neurological conditions - based on a selfie of the eye

Scientists have developed a smartphone app they believe could detect signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions – based on a selfie of the eye

This allows the application to convert the pupil size of the near infrared image to millimeter units.

During testing, the researchers found that the app’s measurements were comparable to those taken by a pupillometer – the device was considered the gold standard for measuring pupil size.

The team also worked with seniors to ensure the smartphone app was user-friendly.

Key features include voice commands, image-based instructions, and an inexpensive plastic bezel to direct the user to the correct position.

“By testing directly with seniors, we’ve discovered ways to improve the overall usability of our system and have even helped innovate senior-specific solutions that allow people with different physical limitations to use our system. successfully,” said UC San Diego Design Lab faculty member Professor Edward Wang.

“When developing technologies, we need to look beyond function as the sole measure of success, to understanding how our solutions will be used by a wide variety of end users.”

The team now plans to test the app with older people with mild cognitive impairment, to see its effectiveness in screening for Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and degenerative disease of the brain, in which the accumulation of abnormal proteins leads to the death of nerve cells.

This disrupts the transmitters that carry the messages and causes the brain to shrink.

More than 5 million people suffer from the disease in the United States, where it is the 6th leading cause of death, and more than a million Britons have it.

WHAT HAPPENS?

When brain cells die, the functions they perform are lost.

This includes memory, orientation, and the ability to think and reason.

The progression of the disease is slow and progressive.

On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live ten to 15 years.

FIRST SYMPTOMS:

  • Short term memory loss
  • disorientation
  • Behavioral changes
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulties managing money or making a phone call

LATER SYMPTOMS:

  • Severe memory loss, forgetting close family members, familiar objects or places
  • Become anxious and frustrated with the inability to make sense of the world, leading to aggressive behavior
  • Eventually loses the ability to walk
  • May have problems eating
  • The majority will eventually need round-the-clock care

Source: Alzheimer Association

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