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Dementia detection ‘pen’ gets funding boost

Innovate UK has allocated £600,000 towards the validation of a handheld device used to screen dementia and cognitive impairment.



Innovate UK has allocated £600,000 towards the validation of a handheld device used to screen dementia and cognitive impairment.

The innovation agency has awarded grant funding to Manus Neurodynamica, which develops and markets products and technologies for neuromotor assessment.

The funds will help to optimise and validate the NeuroMotor Pen (NMP) for screening of dementias and cognitive impairment, over a two-year project.

Only around 68 per cent of over 65s, estimated to have dementia have been diagnosed.

Early identification can hugely increase the chance of maintaining functional abilities and defer the point of escalation, where additional care and support is required at home or in a care facility.

New screening technologies are required. It is increasingly recognised that Parkinson’s, and other movement disorders such as myoclonus, paratonia and dyskinesia occur frequently in Alzheimer’s dementia (AD).

An easily performed objective test of fine motor skill could aid in the diagnosis and management of those with suspected or established dementia.

The NMP may provide this test. The handheld device with sensor technologies with decision support software enables users to non-invasively record and analyse parameters of minute limb and hand motion during drawing and writing movements.

These parameters are used as ‘digital biomarkers’ to provide objective information about decline in cognition and motor skill with higher accuracy than clinical ratings scales with electronic record keeping.

Over two years, Manus will carry out the project to optimise and validate NMP for screening of dementias.

The main objectives cover a breadth of areas, from fine tuning existing signal processing algorithms to extract digital biomarkers for AD, to completing clinical validation in 200 patients with early AD.

The project will also span data pipeline optimisation, inclusion of other clinical data points and rating scales for integration with NMP biomarkers, along with preparing for clinical deployment and creating budget impact analysis of NMP implementation in the early identification of AD.

Finally, the project will engage with 100 citizens living with AD and their supporters to determine the usability and acceptability of NMP in the referral and differential diagnosis of dementia and its management and its suitability for remote assessment.

This anticipated project output will be a validated triage test in primary care that is low cost and easy to use and designed to scale.

Dr Rutger Zietsma, CEO of Manus, said: We are extremely pleased to be working at the forefront of this technology, aiming to provide results at primary care level, to help streamline the care pathway and ensure all patients will receive a timely diagnosis and supported earlier to develop long term cognition and positive mental habits.

“This two-year project will help determine and validate the NMP for screening of dementias, as we set to roll-out our NMP later this year, initially applied in diagnosing Parkinson’s in the UK and Benelux markets, while also progressing work to secure regulatory approval to start selling in US.”

Inpatient rehab

Adventures in VR for care home residents



Having fun in the snow and touching the clouds are some of the ways that residents at Exemplar Health Care’s Ribble View care home are using virtual reality technology to relax during lockdown.  

The team at Ribble View, alongside experts from Rescape Innovation, have been using virtual reality (VR) technology, DR.VR, to support therapy sessions in the home in Preston. 

This is part of Exemplar Health Care‘s commitment to investing in the latest life-enriching technology to make every day better for their people. 

Over the past few months, the therapy team at the home has been working with individuals to explore their likes and interests, and tailoring the VR experience to their personal choices.

Individuals can choose from a range of pre-loaded films that are shot in 360 degrees, so that once the headsets are placed over their eyes, they can be fully immersed into a ‘virtual world’.  

Lindsay Abraham, home manager at Ribble View, says: “Before we begin a session we talk to the individual to find out what they like. 

“If someone’s a keen traveller, we can load videos of famous landmarks onto the VR headset, so they can travel around the world from the comfort of their home. 

“The technology allows people to see a 360-degree picture and be fully immersed into the virtual experience.” 

Since the introduction of VR technology at Ribble View, the team has already seen lots of benefits. 

Pamela Hicken, therapist at the home, said: “VR has been well received at Ribble View. Some of our residents get very excited when they see me walking down the hallway with the headset.

“Everyone that’s used it has given positive feedback, and for many of our residents, it’s helped to reduce anxiety and pain. 

“We used the VR headset with one of our residents who was experiencing anxiety. Before the session, they rated themselves as 7/10 for anxiety and 4/10 for pain. 

“During the session, we used a calming snow scene on the headset, and incorporated massage and breathing exercises into the session, and we could see the individual become more relaxed throughout. 

“At the end of the session, they’re anxiety score decreased to 3/10 and pain score to 3/10, and they commented that they found the session very ‘relaxing’.” 

 VR can also be incorporated into physiotherapy sessions to support rehabilitation and mobility. 

Pamela continues: “For residents with athetosis, we’ve seen that their movements have become more purposeful, and residents with limited arm movements have been reaching out to touch things.

“We used the headset with one resident who has limited mobility, and they were moving their neck to look in different directions, and reaching out with their hands. 

“Throughout the session, they made comments such as ‘I want to do it every day’ and ‘this is heaven’. By the end of the session, their anxiety score had reduced by two points.” 

The benefits of virtual reality technology in care homes

DR.VR is a virtual reality distraction therapy that can support pain management and reduce stress and anxiety. 

It uses a headset, which, when worn, transports people to a 3D computer generated environment and immerses them into a virtual ‘world’. 

The technology can provide a safe and therapeutic experience for adults living with a range of neuro-disabilities and mental health needs. 

Adding these meaningful experiences into people’s everyday lives can bring huge health and wellbeing benefits. 

Research also shows that DR.VR can be effective in managing pain, anxiety and stress – the technology transports people to another environment, place or time, which can distract them from their current pain or stresses. 

Clinical nurse manager, Shannon O’Dea, says: “For our service users when they are struggling, DR.VR will help to deescalate and redirect when the environment is too stimulating. DR.VR allows them to get to their safe space through guided meditation, relaxation or distraction.”

About Exemplar Health Care 

Exemplar Health Care is a leading provider of specialist nursing care for adults living with a range of complex and high acuity needs.

They have over 32 community-based, specialist nursing homes and OneCare services which provide person-centred care and rehabilitation that focuses on maximising independence, building everyday living skills and empowering people to live as fulfilled lives as possible.

They support people on their journey from being in hospital or living in a secure setting to community-based living, as well as offering longer term support for people living with degenerative or life-limiting illnesses.

Read more about Exemplar Health Care. 

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Neuro tech business predicts strong growth



Advanced neuroscience and digital therapeutics business MindMaze Healthcare has revealed its plans for ‘exponential growth’ through its commercial product portfolio and clinical pipeline. 

The business is a key name in digital neurotheraputics solutions with its development of its game-based software products Rehab DTx, which supports neurorehabilitation, and Neuro DTx aimed at neurorestoration. 

Its serious digital therapeutics (DTx), a combination of neuroscience and AI-powered, immersive game-based activities, are improving clinical outcomes for patients with neurological conditions including stroke, TBI, mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and MS. 

Working with more than 10,000 patients in 20 countries worldwide, both in hospital and home settings, the Rehab DTx platform and its telerehabilitation service has supported patients around the world during the pandemic through its products’ remote offering. 

MindMaze, founded in 2012, has revealed it is working with leading academic institutions to develop a robust pipeline of clinical evidence and in the next few years expects to have at least three new prescription digital therapeutic solutions for chronic stroke, Parkinson’s, and mild cognitive impairment.

The company is now predicting significant growth in the years ahead through its continued innovation in digital neurotheraputics.

“At MindMaze, we are leading the delivery of digital neurotherapeutics with our groundbreaking solutions for some of the most challenging neurological conditions,” says Tej Tadi, founder and chief executive at MindMaze. 

“We are differentiated in the burgeoning digital therapeutics industry. MindMaze has a global commercial footprint that is generating considerable revenue today and will drive explosive revenue growth in the next years.”

MindMaze’s products are in use in inpatient units in the United States, including Johns Hopkins University Hospital and Mt. Sinai Health Systems. 

In addition to Rehab DTx and Neuro DTx solutions, MindMaze also offers smart peripherals and quantitative assessments that allow tracking of motor and cognitive capacities. 

The data from these assessments is then analysed on an AI cloud-based platform and returned in a digestible form to patients and clinicians. 

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Brain injury

First digital health support platform for ABI launched



The first digital health intervention for families affected by ABI has been launched, with a view to national roll-out in the coming months. 

CBIT In Hand has been created to provide immediate, tailored information via a mobile device to families of children and young people who have been affected by concussion and/or acquired brain injury (ABI). 

After three years of planning by the Child Brain Injury Trust, the app went live last week when it was launched at the CBIT virtual conference, and is being trialed in Alder Hey and Birmingham Children’s Hospital for the next three months. 

CBIT in Hand will then be rolled out to 19 hospitals nationally, with more continuing to come on board. 

CBIT in Hand, which can be accessed by QR code or downloaded from App stores, is being targeted at A&E departments and major trauma units, to ensure families can find the digital information, resources and support they need instantly during the most difficult early stages of their loved one’s injury. 

Statistics show that each year, 500,000 children and young people attend A&E each year with a head injury, for whom the CBIT in Hand app could prove invaluable to give the information they need.

And for the families of the 40,000 children each year who sustain ABI, the app enables them to access information  or refer themselves to CBIT for support – a process which previously was usually done via third party referral – and ensures they receive an immediate response from the charity’s team. 

CBIT in Hand marks a significant investment for CBIT, with £130,000 already committed – supported by the National Lottery Community Fund and law firm Leigh Day – but a further £400,000 being sought to enable it to continue to scale and support more families nationally. 

“Each year, our team supports 1,400 families, which is great, but clearly our resources need to reach further. That was one of the main reasons in creating this app – to reach more families who need us, without diluting the service we provide,” says Lisa Turan, chief executive of the Child Brain Injury Trust. 

“By creating CBIT in Hand, we can ensure access is given to  personalised resources that are needed without having to wait, and if a family needs to be referred to us, then that process is now much easier and instant. Rather than face the ‘fear factor’ felt by many of having to phone organisations, they can now get in touch with us with a tap of their mobile. 

“While there is information out there for families of children with brain injuries, it can be inconsistent. Through creating this instant digital access, we’re taking away some of the burden on the NHS to pass on this information. So if they need advice about aspects of brain injury, on benefits, school support, local services, or how to connect with other families, that can all be accessed via CBIT in Hand.” 

Now in pilot, CBIT in Hand has been a huge undertaking for the CBIT team, who have worked closely with families and medical partners along the way. 

“We’ve put our heart and soul into creating this, it’s been three years in the planning and we’ve worked alongside Alder Hey and Birmingham Children’s Hospital for over a year to get it right. We’ve done extensive remote testing across the UK with parents of children with ABI, so we are looking forward to rolling it out further after the pilot,” says Lisa. 

“The clinicians we’ve worked with have been so helpful, they all carry their phones so will show families our QR code so they can access our resources straight away. There will also be posters up for families to scan the QR code.  

“We think this app will be so valuable for many families – for those needing a lighter touch, they may find everything they need there, but for those who need more, they can refer and access our specialist team.

“We’re so pleased this has been possible – in time, we’d like to build it out further but will need investment to do that. But for now, we’re really looking forward to national roll-out and to extending our support more than ever before.” 

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