Two Israeli engineering students have developed the first computerized system for diagnosing Parkinson’s disease. Their system gives the correct diagnosis 94 percent of the time.
Tal Waserman and Tomer Shraga developed the system as a final project for their bachelor’s degree from ORT Braude College, Carmiel. According to the students, the new system represents a significant change in how the disease is diagnosed, because for the first time it will allow uniform measurements by every doctor who treats Parkinson’s. Until now it has been diagnosed on the basis of subjective measurements of various parameters.
The system has already attracted interest, they say, including from representatives of Harvard University.
“Until now, patients who came to a clinic with severe movement problems were asked to perform various motor tasks in front of the doctor, and were given grades on these [actions] that were used to determine whether Parkinson’s was present, and how severe it was,” said Waserman. “The diagnosis - and, along with it, the dosage of medications the patient received - were based on the opinion of a single doctor. This opinion would differ from person to person, and from doctor to doctor. The idea is to create a computerized system of precise grades that could be perfected into a clear and uniform diagnosis.”
The students were advised by faculty member Alex Frid, and helped by Drs. Ilana Schlesinger and Shmuel Raz from the Movement Disorders Center at Rambam Medical Center, Haifa, which is where they did much of the actual development work.
The computerized tests are performed by connecting the patient to a depth camera. “The patient sits in front of a 3-D depth camera, which is our current interface between the person and the machine,” said Frid. “The patient performs several simple actions according to the doctor’s instructions, and the camera broadcasts the data to the computer, which is behind it.” The software then analyzes the data and gives the doctor a recommended diagnosis.
“The new software can open a window for diverse additional tests and more in-depth investigation of the disease,” Frid added. “Another advantage of the software is that the computerized analysis enables better resolution in determining the parameters that characterize the disease - such as diagnosing the problematic motor actions that most clearly characterize Parkinson’s patients at every stage.”