The new diagnostics is a joint effort that has brought together eight scientists, postgraduates and students from TPU and SSMU.
Problem in focus
«A lot of physiological systems are responsible for our sense of balance and movements. First of all, it’s the vestibular system that contributes to our spatial orientation; it’s also our muscles; it’s our vision helping us watch the horizon. This is a
Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’
Scientists say that in the case of Parkinson’s, for instance, cells may start deteriorating as early as at the age of 30, but symptoms won’t grow noticeable until about 50.
That’s why researchers across the world are looking for effective and affordable methods of identifying the neurodegenerative diseases as early as possible.
«For a person to feel the loss of a function, about 80% of cells responsible for the function have to be
How it works
The system the TPU/SSMU team is developing consists of augmented reality glasses, a contactless movement sensor, and a mobile platform.
The developers use some of the already existing devices, such as the Google AR glasses and the Kinect contactless sensor controller. For a test, a person puts on the glasses and gets immersed in virtual reality where the skyline/horizon is changed. The movement sensor detects changes in his body’s position in 20 points. While a healthy person adapts easily to the virtual environment and keeps his balance, a neurodegenerative patient fails to do both.
Results and prospects
About 50 volunteers are said to have already undergone tests using the new system.
«In experiments, we saw how the virtual reality impacted people. Each test lasted about 10 minutes. The volunteers included both healthy people and confirmed neurodegenerative patients. The system helped us say how noticeably one’s current status differed from a norm. We now understand that different patients respond differently to a virtual environment. For example, Parkinson’s patients had their upper extremity tremor (rapid and uncontrolled movements of an
He believes the project team will take another year to complete the research part of the effort, with clinical trials and an array of certification procedures to follow.
«It’s too premature to talk about the ultimate cost of the system, but it will surely be just a fraction of that of international analogs. Longer term, we have plans to use the system not only in diagnostics but also in the rehabilitation process," Mr. Tolmachov said.