A selfie to detect Alzheimer’s disease and ADHD?

Detect dementia or ADHD with a simple smartphone? This is the promise of a team of researchers from the University of California (San Diego) who have just developed a surprising application based on close-up photos.

Their device proposes to assess cognitive health on the basis of eye selfies (in other words, pictures of your eyes). To do this, it mobilizes an infrared camera (present in most current smartphones) and a “selfie camera”, which makes it possible to follow the evolution of the size of the pupil. The system then converts the pupil size of the infrared image to millimeter units.

Goal ? Track the Alzheimer’s diseaseADHD and many other neurological diseases.

Pupil size can provide information about a person’s neurological functions. For example, it increases when a person performs a difficult cognitive task or hears a loud unexpected sound, explain the researchers in a press release (source 1).

The application would therefore be able to very accurately assess the size of the pupil – and this, regardless of the color of the patient’s eyes. This technology is described in a paper that will be presented at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2022), taking place April 30-May 5 in New Orleans.

“While there is still a lot of work to be done, I am excited about the potential of this technology to bring neurological screening outside clinical laboratories and homes,” said Colin Barry, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering at UC San Diego. He added, “We believe this test will open the door to further explorations of smartphone use to detect and to monitor potential health issues.

An inclusive app, suitable for everyone

To make it accessible to the main stakeholders – the elderly – the researchers have included many inclusive features in the application: “For us, one of the most important factors in technological development is to ensure that these solutions can be used by everyone. This includes people like the elderly who might not be used to using smartphones,” Colin Barry said.

And his colleague, Eric Granholm, professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego, concludes: “This scalable assessment tool for smartphones that can be used for large scale community screenings […] could have a huge impact on public health.”

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