A modern method of detecting and managing neurological problems
January 29, 2020
Can games fix a void that traditional medicine has struggled with? For hundreds of years, medical practitioners have conducted patient exams and reached conclusions about symptoms, diagnoses and treatments. However, in most cases, the information was limited to a static “snapshot” of the patient, or to observations over a very short period of time.
The evolution of clinical science has demonstrated that human organs and organ systems are complex and dynamic in their interactions. They can change over time, and as such, static representations cannot always provide sufficient data to make accurate diagnoses and plan the best therapies.
Nowhere is this static assessment more meaningful than in the evaluation of the human brain, as the brain is probably the most dynamic and changeable organ in the body.
It is only within the last three decades that medical science has developed a more detailed understanding of the “plasticity” of the human brain and its associated functionality.
Interestingly, an entrepreneurial company called Highmark Interactive has devised a fully mobile system that marries the electronic gaming culture with high-level brain science. Its product, EQ Brain Performance, was developed to assess the human brain as a dynamic organ – one that can change over time.
As the company notes on its website, “EQ is a mobile brain assessment platform that delivers comprehensive neurological assessment through game-based testing. It is an easier, faster, more relevant method of assessment that more precisely mirrors the modern understanding of dynamic brain function than other methods used today.
Potential users include amateur to professional athletes at risk of concussions, as well as youth to seniors in need of testing their neurological performance levels.
Additional uses in the cannabis sector and heavy industry are being implemented, where questions arise about brain functioning”.
EQ does this using seven different games, which can be used anywhere and at anytime. It’s also available in more than a dozen languages.
The games test balance, visual functioning, and cognitive abilities. There is also an EQ dashboard that allows managers to display and interpret objective results and to manage groups of users.
EQ aims to provide an assessment tool with ongoing collection of elements of human neurological performance. Highmark’s EQ has received clearance from the US FDA, CE mark in the EU as well as clearance by regulatory authorities in Australia and New Zealand.
Based in the Toronto area, the core team assembled were world class leaders in their respective fields, including neurosurgeons, neurologists, neuropsychologists, functional neurologists, and sports medicine physicians; mathematicians, machine learning PhD’s from US and Canadian universities, culminating in a partnership with Canada’s leading technology institution, the University of Waterloo.
Highmark also acquired a company with a team of mobile gaming software developers, who collectively had over 80 million downloads of games they had previously produced.
Together, led by Dr. Sanjeev Sharma, the team built, tested, studied and refined the world’s first mobile, gamified, FDA-cleared neuro-diagnostic software.
Tests of the software have either been completed or are ongoing both domestically (Toronto, Calgary) and internationally (U.S., Australia), including projects for concussion management, mental health, workplace safety, eldercare and cannabis-related studies.
EQ’s ongoing assessment was designed to create robust datasets demonstrating individual and population neurological performance. These datasets will demonstrate patterns of normal and abnormal performance, and EQ is embedding machine learning algorithms to further assist the human healthcare practitioner in the earlier diagnosis of potential pathological conditions. Machine learning will also assist practitioners when choosing rehabilitation protocols and approaches.
The growth in physiological and other health-related data, and the ability of both humans and machine learning/artificial intelligence to evaluate its relevance and application, is providing clinicians with a new wealth of opportunity to question, trial and create new and improved approaches to healing.
The data provided in these forms of technology is being embraced and utilized by many fields of expertise in healthcare. EQ has defined key components of the data “pictures” required to holistically represent a state of neurological health.