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Augmented reality offers new view of neurodegenerative diseases

October 11, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Senior Editor
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Imagine a world where putting on an augmented reality headset could predict neurodegenerative diseases. Actually, you don’t have to imagine. It’s already a reality.

Russian scientists from Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) and Siberian State Medical University (SSMU) are jointly working to develop a diagnosis system for multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease at the early stages.

People are immersed through augmented reality glasses, a contactless sensor controller and a mobile platform. Researchers change the parameters of the environment and record changes in their movements. People without neurodegenerative diseases quickly adapt to the change in slope and keep a stable position but people with a disease can’t adapt and lose their balance. Coordination difficulties are symptomatic of neurological diseases.

“Our sense of balance and our movement are responsibilities of a number of systems,” says Ivan Tolmachov, senior instructor of TPU Department of Industrial and Medical Electronics, associate professor at SSMU, in a press release. This is the vestibular apparatus—the inner ear and semicircular ducts—which determines our position in space and the direction of gravity. This is also muscular system and vision—it helps us to monitor constantly the horizon. All these coordinated systems operate automatically. They falter if a person gets neurodegenerative diseases.”

The experiment takes about 10 minutes and uses on-the-market technology such as Google Glass and Microsoft Kinect. So far, about 50 people with and without neurodegenerative diseases have been tested. Researchers can’t make diagnoses but can compare differences between those with and without neurodegenerative diseases as well as differences between diseases.

Scientists are hoping to complete the technical part of the project by 2017 and then pass clinical trials to ultimately help diagnose neurodegenerative diseases and help with patient rehabilitation. 

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