The technology uses an eye detector that analyzes how the pupils behave when faced with certain types of stimuli associated with memory.
It is not the first time nor will it be the last that technology plays a crucial role in the field of advances in science and health. There are already experimental methods that manage to control diseases such as Parkinson’s, and the discoveries in this field are generating a real revolution. Today we focus on a new application that, although it does not work as a cure, it does helps detect cases of Alzheimer’s and prevent them from deteriorating more quickly.
The discovery is the work of scientists from the University of San Diego in California, who have designed an app capable of detecting cases of Alzheimer’s very quickly and thus being able to act accordingly with these patients. Colin Barry, one of the main authors of the essay, explained the importance of this project and the doors it opens for the future:
“While there is still a lot of work to be done, I am excited about the potential to use this technology to take neurological screening out of clinical labs, and into the home. We hope this opens the door to new studies on the use of smartphones to detect and monitor potential health problems before it’s too late.”
How does the process work? It is really a very innovative idea that makes use of existing technology to transform it into a diagnostic system. The tool works as an “eye tracker”, a device that studies the reaction of the eyes to a given stimulus. The app is capable of analyze how users’ eyes behave and detect whether the movements are natural or a possible cause of neuronal diseases.
The pupils offer direct information on how our brain works when faced with a visual stimulus
The case of the pupils is very revealing. Pupil size increases when a person performs a difficult cognitive task or hears an unexpected sound, so it’s very easy to monitor that from an app. In the case of Alzheimer’s, during the early stages of the disease, affected people begin to find it more difficult to associate memories with faces, places…etc. Because of this, they increasingly have to make a greater effort to understand images that are part of or refer to real memories.
The app analyzes the reaction of the pupils when, for example, a familiar image is shown. If the pupil expands in size it means that the person is making an extra effort to understand the whole image, and this is usually associated with memory problems. It could be that the pulila spread because that image evokes a powerful emotional memory, that’s why I still we cannot yet speak of a diagnostic tool as such.
In any case, the authors of the study are excited that this technology can work as a tool for prevention and early diagnosis that users can have at their fingertips.
“For us, one of the most important factors in technology development is ensuring that these solutions are usable by anyone. This includes people like older adults who might not be used to using smartphones.”
Barry’s statements maintain that evidently the final diagnosis must be made by a professional, but the app could work as a little wake-up call. If the ocular tracking technology detects an anomaly in response to a stimulus, it will be time to go to a professional to confirm or deny this premature diagnosis.
Related topics: Science