A new research study is underway at the UR Medical Center that will draw on high-tech devices like motion sensors and pressure sensors in an attempt to find a better treatment for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
The research team, led by geriatric psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry Adrian Leibovici, will gather data from these sensors connected wirelessly to computers.
It will then be compared to the results obtained from the traditional paper-and-pencil evaluations.
“Clinical evaluation is very important because during the week [the patient and the caregiver] come to the doctor and describe how they technically behaved over the past week,” Leibovici said. “But this is done quite subjectively. This is not because they don’t wish to give the right information, but because a lot of what [they] know and what [they] experience can shape a lot of information [they] give.”
Such motion and pressure sensors record every movement around them, very much like the ones used in security alarm systems.
They can be implanted in couches, beds or even watches and the patient’s activities can then be quantified with the help of computers.
Using such technology, very subtle changes in the patient’s behavior can be observed that may not have otherwise been detectable.
Both the patient and the caregiver have to consent to participating in the study.
The caregiver would also have to wear sensors so that their movements can be distinguished from those of the patient.
Furthermore, the caregiver’s assistance is crucial in corroborating the information the team receives via the sensors. The study will be conducted on an intermittent basis – the patients will be observed for one week every month for up to two and a half years.
During the week of monitoring, the patients will schedule a clinical visit in order to partake in the traditional evaluation process.
In addition to providing doctors with valuable information about the patient’s behavior, this study will greatly benefit the patients and their caregivers.
First, this new way of acquiring information will enable doctors to come up with superior treatment methods for the patients.
“Technology provides us with better, cheaper and continuous information,” Leibovici said. “Better data gathering and better information always translates to better diagnosis and thus better treatment.”
Second, some people can’t afford the current high-priced treatment options. “Right now, evaluation is very expensive, difficult and time consuming,” Leibovici said. “Technology will help us provide cheaper treatment methods.”
Last, and most importantly, this pioneer program will facilitate a better understanding of the disease. “We’re hoping to find out things that we don’t know yet,” Leibovici said.
The funding was awarded by the Alzheimer’s Association and Intel Corporation.
This is the first of five grants presented to researchers who utilize the latest technology in their studies.
The actual devices will be supplied by General Electric Company and HomeFree Systems.
Sridharan can be reached at