Doctors assess patients based on various coordination criteria, but there are many factors that may hinder accurate diagnosis. Having a mobile device that can analyze reactions and process them with context may increase accuracy and efficiency.

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Hebrew SeniorLife, Boston (BIDMC) have developed a device that can help for concussion diagnosis. It measures hand-eye coordination in order to detect neuromuscular defects that may result from an injury, ageing or other conditions. The first clinical study of the “new rapid neuro-assessment device” was recently completed, where subjects tracked a moving target around a circle on the tablet by tracing with a stylus. The subjects’ performance was analyzed according to age, sex and handedness, resulting in statistics on how different individuals react to exercises on the device.

Assessing neuromuscular performance

The mobile platform brings its familiar benefits to medical diagnosis (portability, convenience, and connectivity) and the new device, which is currently being referred to as NeuroAssess, brings additional boons. It gives the diagnosis process a speed in measuring patient reflexes and cognitive status without the subjectivity of human assessment. The more nuanced tracking that NeuroAssess affords also could be used to identify broader conditions that also affect cognitive performance. "We have demonstrated in earlier studies that a loss of complexity is potentially associated with a range of human health issues from congestive heart failure and sleep apnea to aging," says Wyss Core Faculty member Ary L. Goldberger, M.D.

Tablet-powered monitoring may work its way into everyday medical processes

The research team sees the technology taking up permanent residence next to the thermometer and blood pressure cuff as a standard medical assessment tool. Wyss Senior Staff Engineer Leia Stirling, Ph.D. predicts, "Just as your blood pressure is recorded during every visit, so could your neuromuscular score be tracked over time to determine progress through recovery and rehabilitation." The WYSS Institute announcement also suggests that the device could be used to measure neurological side-effects in human clinical trials, and one could also imagine it being used routinely outside of trauma use to track baseline performance, thus giving practitioners early signs of developing conditions. Perhaps this device could also diagnose neurological conditions at earlier stages, resulting in new ways of treatment or prevention.

By Ivory King