When you might have a neurodegenerative illness, like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s illness, your signs might ebb and circulate throughout the day. Going right into a clinic for testing captures your standing at that cut-off date, however how do you achieve an understanding of what’s taking place all through the remainder of the day or over the course of many days?
Kinesiology researchers on the University of Waterloo are main a distant monitoring wearable expertise undertaking referred to as ONDRI@Home, a platform of analysis throughout the Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative, which is supported by the Ontario Brain Institute. ONDRI@Home goals to watch members’ general well being and performance, akin to sleep, motion and social engagement as they go about their every day lives within the consolation of their residence environments.
“The program works on several levels,” says Karen Van Ooteghem, an ONDRI scientist and researcher with the Neuroscience, Mobility and Balance (NiMBal) Lab right here at Waterloo. “At the individual level, data from these sensors empowers individuals to make positive lifestyle changes, self-manage symptoms of their disorders and monitor their own health for timely intervention when there is a change in their health status.”
It additionally supplies info to their clinicians that will translate into higher care, and it has the potential to minimize the burden on care companions who usually play an necessary function in caring for his or her family members residing with neurodegenerative illness, she says. Finally, as a result of the aggregated information is deposited in a bigger repository, referred to as Brain-CODE, it could function a population-level software as properly.
“There was an increased recognition that things that were being captured in clinic were great – gold standard – but what was missing were measures that were important to describe the progression and status of neurodegenerative disease at home,” says Bill McIlroy, a Kinesiology professor and head of the NiMBal Lab.
“Things like falls are never really captured well in a clinical setting, so we advocated for a wearable approach, where we would have an at-home component to the assessment going forward.”
More obvious than earlier than
The pandemic accelerated the necessity for such a distant well being monitoring. “The need to pivot to capture information from these individuals and to develop new approaches to monitor health became even more apparent than it was before,” says Van Ooteghem. The workforce is now serving as much as 300 sufferers per 12 months, and rising quick, McIlroy provides.
The researchers are capturing information not solely from individuals with neurodegenerative illness, but additionally from wholesome individuals for comparability via the Kinesiology Department’s Centre for Community, Clinical and Applied Research Excellence (CCCARE).
“Participants wear a set of three to four sensors that capture different but complementary information,” says Van Ooteghem. “A personalized combination of sensors serves to optimize collection for participants, dependent upon specific measures of interest, in order to help them with self- and clinical management. They wear these sensors for an extended period of time to log or capture the data, then send them back to us, where we offload and process it.”
The information replicate members’ exercise, sleep, cardiovascular perform and social engagement. “The approach that we’ve adopted is not to rely on commercial products; these are inadequate for health applications,” says McIlroy. “We are device agnostic: We don’t care what the devices are as long as they can get us the raw data needed to advance analytics and solve a health issue.”
For instance, the researchers are utilizing accelerometry not solely to know how individuals transfer, but additionally to seize speech patterns. “We can place it near the throat to capture speech behaviour that is picked up by the acceleration signals, which tells us how often they are talking and capturing other features of their speech that can tell us how they are doing in terms of social engagement,” says McIlroy.
“There is no need for a microphone, and we can tell how they are engaging with others and the quality of their speech, 24/7.”
A derivative advantage of this undertaking has been the event of a hands-on Kinesiology wearable applied sciences course for fourth-year college students. Built on hyperlinks between well being and the usage of wearable expertise developed inside ONDRI@Home, the course supplies well being science college students with coaching on wearable expertise and information analytics.
“Courses that integrate health sciences with practical training in technology and data sciences are increasingly important as the applications of technology continue to accelerate,” says Anton Trinh, a technical assist specialist who co-developed the course with McIlroy.
Van Ooteghem says probably the most thrilling features of this undertaking includes the interdisciplinarity of their workforce, which incorporates collaborators from engineering and co-op college students from Engineering, Physics, Biostatistics and Computer Science. Most not too long ago, this has included third-year nanotechnology scholar Hannah Bernstein, who accomplished an eight-month co-op placement with the group.
“As someone who wants to work in the health-tech field and someday build wearable sensors and medical devices, working with this group provided an incredible opportunity to learn from and work with experts in the field, as well as interact with doctors and patients who would use and benefit from the devices,” says Bernstein, who had the chance to work on each the gadget and algorithm aspect of the tasks.
“A big challenge in a research program like this is finding the best way to manage and process large volumes of data,” Van Ooteghem says. “We’ve needed programmers and engineers to help us build algorithms to make sense of it all. Through a series of code we’ve developed, we can take raw data from the sensors and transform it into meaningful outputs.”
McIlroy, like all of the researchers, examined the wearable tech earlier than deploying it. When he first noticed how fragmented his sleep was, he mentioned it was an “eye-opener” and made modifications to his way of life to appropriate for it.
This response is just not uncommon, and that is what the researchers are relying on for each wholesome people and people residing with neurodegenerative illness and their care companions. A analysis program like ONDRI supplies the muse for growing options to assist enhance high quality of life for people and their caregivers, and in the end work at a well being programs stage by offering a extra complete view of illness that may information well being providers.