Eye-scanning App Screens People for Alzheimer’s, ADHD

Researchers at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) have developed a smartphone app that could allow people to screen for Alzheimer’s disease, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and other neurological diseases and disorders—by recording closeups of their eye. The app uses a near-infrared camera, which is built into newer smartphones for facial recognition, along with a regular selfie camera to track how a person’s pupil changes in size. These pupil measurements could be used to assess a person’s cognitive condition. The technology is described in a paper that will be presented at the ACM Computer Human Interaction Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2022), which will take place from April 30 to May 5 in New Orleans as a hybrid-onsite event.

A smartphone user can image the eye using the RGB selfie camera and the front-facing near-infrared camera included for facial recognition. Measurements from this imaging could be used to assess the user’s cognitive condition

While there is still a lot of work to be done, I am excited about the potential for using this technology to bring neurological screening out of clinical lab settings and into homes,” said Colin Barry, an electrical and computer engineering Ph.D. student at UC San Diego and the first author of the paper, which received an Honorable Mention for Best Paper award. “We hope that this opens the door to novel explorations of using smartphones to detect and monitor potential health problems earlier on.

Pupil size can provide information about a person’s neurological functions, recent research has shown. For example, pupil size increases when a person performs a difficult cognitive task or hears an unexpected soundMeasuring the changes in pupil diameter is done by performing what’s called a pupil response test. The test could offer a simple and easy way to diagnose and monitor various neurological diseases and disorders. However, it currently requires specialized and costly equipment, making it impractical to perform outside the lab or clinic.

Engineers in the Digital Health Lab, led by UC San Diego electrical and computer engineering professor Edward Wang, collaborated with researchers at the UC San Diego Center for Mental Health Technology (MHTech Center) to develop a more affordable and accessible solution.

A scalable smartphone assessment tool that can be used for large-scale community screenings could facilitate the development of pupil response tests as minimally-invasive and inexpensive tests to aid in the detection and understanding of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.  This could have a huge public health impact,” said Eric Granholm, a psychiatry professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine and director of the MHTech Center.

Source: https://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/