Laurier professors produce early Alzheimer’s detector

Graphic by Alan Li

Two professors from the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics have teamed up with BrainFX, Thought Wire and Saint Elizabeth Health Care to produce a new early detection tool for Alzheimer’s.

The detection tool will be using a BrainFX screener combined with an artificial intelligence (AI) database provided by Thought Wire.

Together the technology will create a brain health assessment and risk management tool.

Professors Josephine McMurray and Azim Essaji are evaluating the economic impact that the new program will have.

The new technology produced by BrainFX and Thought Wire will be for detection of mild to moderate cognitive dysfunction, which allows for earlier Alzheimer’s detection in patients.

“The idea is that you have this double approach of full risk management,” McMurray said.

“Where you can mine data to be able to identify those who might be at risk instead of waiting for people to say they’re having problems.”

The study will be applying the tool to approximately 10,000 people over the course of the project to determine its success, and will see them partnering with four family health teams in the region and the Southlake Regional Health Centre.

Results from the new tool will be compared to the traditional results of the Mimi-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MCA) which can only detect severe cognitive impairment.

“We’re going to have to look at ways of using technology to perhaps identify earlier so we can slow the course of diseases, not just cognitive but others as well,” McMurray said.

With the hopes of helping people remain as healthy as possible, for as long as possible and aging in a place of comfort as opposed to institutional care.

“We can use technology to help improve quality of life.”

The BrainFX program has targeted and personalized treatment options for those diagnosed with a cognitive dysfunction.

BrainFX can identify particular areas of the brain where there is more of a decline than others, as every patient’s condition differs.

“It identifies the strategies your condition perhaps would adopt and then would be able to apply across any number of settings,” McMurray said.

By scanning patients, the project will be collecting data for future detection and to learn more about cognitive impairment.

The project hopes to be able to identify people who might be at risk of Alzheimer’s and intervene earlier.

“We will know better what some of the risk factors are,” McMurray said. “This tool will look at [illnesses] and identify whether they are confounding results.”

The project has been granted $493,000 and Laurier professors are performing an economic evaluation.

They seek to identify all the pieces that will impact this project and take a look at economic deficiencies and benefits this project could have, both financially and socially.

“Getting in really early and starting to influence the course of their disease, [and] at the very least to be able to slow their decline,” McMurray said.

This technology hopes to improve the quality of life of patients, as well as their families.

With the hopes of helping people remain as healthy as possible, for as long as possible and aging in a place of comfort as opposed to institutional care.

“This whole idea of using technology to age better is good economic sense and good socially as well,” McMurray said.

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