This engineering fourth year project consists of designing and implementing a safe mechanism for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Our goal is to make a device that is minimalist, wearable, yet comfortable to offer a simple, convenient and affordable brain imaging option.
Our device will monitor, using near-infrared spectroscopy, the brain activity of the patient while he/she is performing tasks. This will provide important quantitative measurements, in order to complement existing cognitive tests, which focus solely on the qualitative symptoms of AD. These combined tests will be performed over an extended period to evaluate the progression of the brain damage, allowing the detection of the disease.
Current comparable devices are very expensive making the technology practically inaccessible for research and clinical use. Also, these devices all lack of practicability. For instance, some of these devices do not utilize wireless technologies, which would make them more portable and thus ease the diagnostic process.
AD is a neurodegenerative disease affecting the brain. It atrophies the brain, initially altering the prefrontal cortex function forcing other parts of the brain to compensate. As a result, tasks normally operated by the prefrontal cortex, such as orientation or judgment, are now handled by other regions of the brain. It causes challenges when performing these tasks leading to typical symptoms of AD, such as disorientation and poor judgment.
AD is affecting seniors and the risks of suffering from it increases with age. We estimate that 15% of 65-year-old individuals suffer from dementia while it is at 50% for 85-year-old. Most cases of dementia are directly related to AD. This is especially alarming considering that our population is aging. The cases of AD will rise dramatically over the coming years.
Current technologies to diagnose AD include MRI and CT scan. These technologies are although very expensive. Indeed, they required expertise to install, maintain, use and analyze the data. Moreover, these technologies are not convenient for the diagnose of AD. Indeed, they are not portable nor wearable. It is then not possible to study the brain dynamically, which is key in the process of detecting AD effects. Most importantly, MRI and CT scan cannot detect AD at its early stage as the effect of the disease on the brain at this point is so minimal that it looks like a healthy brain.
Thanks to your very generous contribution, we now have raised the necessary amount to start the first phase of our project, which is to test and prototype our many design options while implementing a working design. Additional funding will allow us to implement a more refined and marketable final product.
The development of this device will allow to study the affected brain in another perspective to better understand the effects and causes of AD. Understanding the disease is critical as there are currently no cure for the disease. Moreover, developing a more affordable option will make the technology accessible to researchers in order to contribute in the research advances of AD.
This device will enable a more certain diagnose of early AD than the cognitive tests. An early diagnose of AD gives the opportunity to greatly slow down the progress of the disease while extending the life expectancy of the patient. Also, it allows the physicians to rule out other causes, such as depression, that have similar symptoms but are curable.