Mobile device diagnoses concussion in real-time

A US team has developed a tablet-based testing system that captures the voice of an individual and analyses the speech for signs of a potential concussion.

Individuals with concussion might display a range of symptoms — such as headaches, depression, loss of memory and loss of brain function — which may persist for weeks or months.

The new, portable diagnostic device developed at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, is claimed to provide results in real-time with greater certainty than X-rays or CT and MRI scans.

‘This project is a great example of how mobile computing and sensing technologies can transform healthcare,’ said Christian Poellabauer, associate professor of computer science and engineering. ‘More important, because almost 90 per cent of concussions go unrecognised, this technology offers tremendous potential to reduce the impact of concussive and sub-concussive hits to the head.’

In use, an individual speaks into a SmartPhone equipped with the Notre Dame program before and after an event. The two samples are then compared for traumatic brain injury (TBI) indicators, which include distorted vowels, hyper nasality and imprecise consonants.

According to a statement, Notre Dame’s system offers a variety of advantages over traditional testing, such as portability, high accuracy, low cost and a low probability of manipulation; it has also proven very successful.

In testing which occurred during Notre Dame’s Bengal Bouts and Baraka Bouts student boxing tournaments, the researchers established baselines for boxers using tests such as the Axon Sports Computerised Cognitive Assessment Tool (CCAT), the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2 (SCAT2), and the Notre Dame iPad-based reading and voice recording test.

During the 2012 Bengal Bouts nine concussions out of 125 participants were confirmed by this new speech based test and the University’s medical team. Separate tests of 80 female boxers were also conducted during the 2012 Baraka Bouts.

Outcomes of the 2013 Bengal Bouts are currently being compared to the findings of the University medical team on approximately 130 male boxers.

Patrick Flynn, professor of computer science and engineering; Nikhil Yadav, graduate student of computer science and engineering; and a team of students and faculty contributed to the research.