VR glasses gives senior man immersive experience
Credit: mikkelwilliam/Getty Images

Digital diagnostics company DiagnaMed Holdings announced today that it has acquired the exclusive worldwide licensing agreement with the tech transfer corporation of the University of Kansas for the development and commercialization of a novel virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) neurodiagnostic system for the evaluation, diagnosis and monitoring of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.

The system, dubbed VR/AI Neuro, has been in development over the past several years by Kansas University Medical Center, Osaka University and Augusta University and is designed for use in the clinical setting with applications in telehealth. The technology leverages VR goggles with an infrared camera embedded in the lens and emulates a real-world environment and common daily tasks to help measure a patient’s ability to fixate on a point, conduct smooth pursuit of an object, or execute saccades (rapid eye movements between two points). By measuring the eye movements relative to these tasks VR/AI Neuro’s technology is design to elicit the eye movements commonly associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as abnormal saccades, square wave jerks, and ocular tremors.

The research team evaluated the tool with nine patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and seven healthy controls to see how it compared with current clinical diagnosis methods. Researchers then applied eye-tracking algorithms and image enhancement to the eye recordings collected ruing the evaluation and conducted a short follow-up study with two physicians for evaluation. Results showed that the VR/AI Neuro system interface could elicit five common types of movements usable for evaluation, physicians could confirm three out of four abnormalities, and visualizations were rated as potentially useful for diagnosis.

Early and accurate diagnosis remains a challenge for neurodegenerative conditions. Evaluations can be time-consuming, patients must often travel long distances for in office visits with specialists in metropolitan areas or different cities, and misdiagnosis can result in improper treatment. The hope is that emerging technologies leveraging AI that can track and emulate a patient’s daily tasks can be a new, and more accurate, tool for the diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases.

“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,” said Fabio Chianelli, chairman of the board of DiagnaMed. “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.”

Other products in the brain health portfolio of DiagnaMed include include BrainAGE and BrainTremor, for applications in mental health and neurological disorders.

BrainAGE is an EEG-based machine-learning technique for assessing whether an individual’s brain is aging more quickly or more slowly than is typical for healthy individuals. Some people’s brains function as if older than their chronological age; other people’s brains function as if younger. BrainAGE provides a measure of general brain health by detecting the combined effects of physiological, pathological, genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that affect the rate at which a brain ages.

BrainTremor combines smartwatch technology and EEG measurements to detect tremors, and measure cognitive and brain activity for Parkinson’s disease. It leverages an AI algorithm to help diagnose and manage disease, areas of increasing interest to researchers and clinicians.

DiagnaMed says its goal is to complete the development of a prototype of BrainAge and BrainTremor for clinical research, with an eye toward commercialization in 2023.

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