The Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the degeneration of nerve cells and causes progressive loss of memory and certain intellectual (cognitive) functions leading to reactions in activities of daily living.
According to the latest estimates, 1.2 million people could be affected by Alzheimer’s or a related disease in France. Of this figure, about 750,000 people are described.
In order to improve diagnosis, Californian researchers have developed a application able to decelerate the disease. Their device proposes to analyze cognitive health thanks to eye selfies (close-up photos of your eyes).
Pupil size can tell a lot about a person’s neurological functions
Researchers in San Diego (USA) a usable application thanks to a infrared camera and a selfie camera (feature present in most current smartphones). The goal? Follow the evolution of the size of the pupil.
“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 an unexpected loud sound,” the researchers explain in a statement.
The application would be able to very accurately assess the size of the pupil – and this, regardless of the color of the patient’s eyes. This application is described in a press release that will be presented at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2022), which will be held from April 30 to May 5 in New Orleans (USA).
Alzheimer’s: the application would be inclusive and easy to use
“While there is still a lot of work to do, I am excited about the potential of this technology who can bring screening neurological outside clinical laboratories and in homes, reports Colin Barry, PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC San Diego. We hope this test will open the door to further explorations of smartphone use to detect and monitor potential health issues.”
The scientists wanted the application accessible to the elderly. It includes many features included in the app: “For us, one of the most important factors in technology development is to ensure that these solutions are usable by everyone. This includes people like the elderly who might not be used to using smartphones,” adds Colin Barry.
This project was funded by the National Institute on Aging.
Alzheimer’s: how is the diagnosis made today?
“The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease requires a complete assessment of the person’s cognitive abilities”, shares the France Alzheimer association. In the event of suspicious symptoms (loss of memory, loss of motivation, language disorders, disorientation, loss of objects, etc.), the general practitioner is the first healthcare professional to consult. He will carry out a clinical examination, an evaluation using simple tests.
The patient may then be required to carry out additional examinations.
To quote the neuropsychological assessment, which consists of the patient answering a series of adapted tests in the form of questions or simple tasks to be carried out proposed by a specialized psychologist. In addition, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or CT can observe the appearance and volume of certain brain areas.
The neurological examination can also be offered. It consists of the doctor asking the patient to perform body and facial movements and tests.
“The blood test aims to ensure that the patient does not have another organic disease or other condition of the brain or nervous system likely to cause cognitive impairment, which would require different management” , further details the France Alzheimer association.