This app may help diagnose dementia

Engineer Mikhail Yanchikov (far right) testing the EyeMove app on a patient. By evaluating a person's eye movements, the app is able to detect certain neuro-degenerative diseases.
Engineer Mikhail Yanchikov (right) testing the EyeMove app on a patient. By evaluating a person's eye movements, the app is able to detect certain neuro-degenerative diseases.PHOTO: MIKHAIL YANCHIKOV

RUSSIA • Test your brain for signs of serious diseases in five minutes?

EyeMove, an app created by Russian engineer Mikhail Yanchikov, does just that.

Through the evaluation of a person's eye movements, the technology enables the detection of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Dementia affects 50 million people worldwide. Yet the rate of adequate care and follow-up remains low, due to diagnostic failures.

EyeMove is working to tackle this through its pain-free test that can be carried out at home, enabling detection of neurodegenerative diseases at an early stage and slowing their development.

The test can be done using a cellphone or computer - provided it is equipped with a high-definition camera. The user just needs to watch the moving green dots that appear on a black background on the screen. The app records the person's reaction time and eye movement trajectory.

The results are then compared with those registered in EyeMove's database, and the probability of the person having a neurodegenerative disease is calculated.

 

If the probability is high, the person is referred to a doctor, who is a partner of the start-up. The test costs US$15 (S$20). The app has already been tested by 500 people and Mr Yanchikov claims it has a 70 per cent accuracy rate.

"For the first time, it's possible to interpret a person's neurological state, without that person having to undergo long and difficult tests," said researcher Laurent Itti from the University of Southern California.

But the initiative needs more publicity and doctors who can recommend the app and give it their seal of approval.

Mr Yanchikov also stressed that he needs to find more laboratories willing to work with EyeMove, since the start-up's database is currently too weak to automate the diagnoses.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2018, with the headline 'This app may help diagnose dementia'. Print Edition | Subscribe