Sunday, March 3, 2013

Brain & Tech Studies

Researchers at the University of Indiana (IU) are working on the theory that by combining intuitive thoughts with the use of technology such as simulation modeling, the medical profession will be able to more accurately predict the outcomes of various treatments. Researchers think that intuitive thoughts combined with technology could reduce healthcare costs by over 50 percent while improving patient outcomes by nearly 50 percent.

The researchers also believe that while most medical decisions are based on case-by-case experience based approaches, there is a growing body of evidence that complex treatment decisions might best be handled using modeling rather than by just intuition alone.

To be most effective, EHRs, HIEs, large public biomedical databases, and machine learning algorithms could be accessed. Two researchers Casey Bennett and Kris Hauser from the IU School of Informatics and Computing believe machine modeling could be the basis for personalized treatment by integrating diverse large scale data that is passed along to clinicians at the time of decision-making for each patient. The researchers believe that the most effective long-term path to reduce costs would be to combine artificial intelligence with human clinicians.

By using models that can simulate numerous alternative treatment paths out into the future, maintain information on a patient’s health status over time even when measurements are unavailable or uncertain, and have the ability to plan and re-plan approaches as new information becomes available. Also, this approach would be non-disease specific and could work for any diagnosis or disorder, simply by plugging in the relevant information.

In another research project at IU, researchers have tested a three-dimensional computerized device to help train children with “Developmental Coordination Disorder” (DCD). About six percent of school-age children have some kind of development coordination disorder where they may experience problems with both gross and fine motor skills that can affect holding objects, walking, running, and even tripping over their own feet.

In a study funded at the university by NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), researchers have tested a three-dimensional computerized device to help train children with DCD to perform manual actions. The virtual reality technology called “PHANTOM Omni” available from Sensable Technologies allows users to progress through a virtual path in the air and then follow their movements on a computer screen.

The researchers observed the children using this technology as they played a tracing game in which a fish follows a path shown on the computer. The game automatically adjusted for the variable of complexity depending on the child’s pace and ability. By playing this game, children with DCD are able to first learn how to approximate a movement and then be able to improve the movement with practice.

After five or six weeks, the researchers reported a marked increase in the manual abilities of children with DCD. The differences between children with DCD who used the technology and typically developing children largely disappeared. It was found that the technology could be used in a variety of settings without the need for constant professional assistance and could effectively improve coordination in children with DCD.