Digitizing the Neurological Screening Examination

Welcome to the first Jump ARCHES “Under the Microscope,” where we speak with an investigator from a different project in each feature. In this feature, we’re speaking with George Heintz, co-primary investigator of “Digitizing the Neurological Screening Examination.” This project, funded in the Jump ARCHES 2019 cycle, attempts to digitize standard neurological screenings of patients in order to ID and predict neurological diseases.

Give us a brief summary of your project and what prompted you to undertake this research:

This project attempts to digitize and quantify neurological screening examinations, which are meant to identify neurological symptoms and eventually the disease that is responsible. We intend to quantify movement disorders through images, motion sensors, and force data. We are currently evaluating different equipment options starting with the Microsoft Kinect DK camera, utilizing commodity products such as cell phones, and the new HoloLense 2, which we have not tested yet but hear is a great improvement from the previous version. Using AI and imaging methods, we believe that we can quantify the movement deviations which would enable us to discriminate between normal to abnormal and measure how fast a disease is progressing.

Who are your collaborators and how did you decide to work with them?

Minh Do, a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at UIUC, is the principal investigator who oversees all of our research. Dr. Chris Zallek, a neurologist at OSF, and Jake Sosnoff, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Applied Health Sciences at UIUC, are co-primary investigators along with myself. About two years ago, Chris gave a talk at the Health Care Engineering Systems Center about general neurological examinations, which inspired me to think about how one could quantify these complex examinations. While searching for collaborators, I discussed with Minh Do to see if it was possible and whether his research aligned with the idea. I introduced Minh to Chris, then we identified Jake Sosnoff as a movement specialist and additional collaborator. We then wrote the Jump ARCHES proposal together and won.

How do you see this research being used in the future?

This research would allow a clinician, primary care physician, or even advanced practical nurse to realize abnormalities or changes in a patient across multiple visits and make informed decisions such as adjusting medication doses, prescribing targeted exercises, or making predictions as to when patients will need more assistive technology in the home or move into assisted living facilities. Ultimately, this will help patients prepare for difficult financial or logistical adjustments in their household and plan for future care. This, however, is a long-term goal.