Israeli scientists say brain scan tool can detect cognitive decline – using music

Israeli scientists say they have developed an alert system for cognitive decline, which works by tracking brain function when older people listen to music.

With a three-electrode pad attached to their head, people undergoing the test are asked to perform tasks, such as pressing a button when a particular instrument is playing.

The tampon is attached to a machine that monitors brain function. An algorithm analyzes the data to determine whether or not brain function suggests cognitive decline is occurring, and if so, to what extent.

A Tel Aviv University doctoral student, Neta Maimon, invented the new 15-minute test, which was tested on dozens of elderly people in recently peer-reviewed research. The same people also underwent tests using a standard assessment of cognitive decline, and the results of the two tests largely matched.

She believes that after further development, evaluation and regulatory approval, the test could “improve the quality of life for millions of people around the world” by providing more accessible screening than current cognitive tests, which are time-consuming. work to doctors and are normally reserved for people who already have problems. Largely automated, she said hers could be used as a routine test.

Cognitive decline is linked to difficulties, beyond what is typically expected with aging, in a person’s brain functions such as thinking, memory and concentration.

“Our method allows the monitoring of cognitive abilities and the detection of cognitive decline in the early stages. It could do this through simple and accessible means, with a quick and easy test that can be done at any clinic,” Maimon said.

“Screening tests are generally accepted for a variety of physiological problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and breast cancer. But to date, no method has yet been developed to allow systematic and accessible monitoring of the brain for cognitive problems.

The study took place at Tel Aviv University’s School of Psychological Sciences and the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, under the supervision of Professor Nathan Intrator of the Blavatnik School of Computing and the Sagol School of Neuroscience.

Illustrative image: an elderly person listening to music (Kuzma via iStock by Getty Images)

Doctors normally diagnose cognitive decline through a face-to-face assessment that involves questions and tasks. There is a more objective method, but it involves a painful and invasive procedure to remove cerebrospinal fluid for testing. There is significant research on an objective non-invasive method, some of which has focused on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or scalp electroencephalogram (EEG), but neither method is widely used today. today.

Maimon uses an EEG machine to analyze electrical activity in the brain as people complete his music test. A combination of brain activity patterns and data on how quickly people completed tasks, such as pressing a button when a particular instrument was playing, gives scientists a strong indication of cognitive status.

The test uses an unusually compact Israeli-made EEG machine, produced by startup Neurosteer, run by Intrator. Maimon says using a portable device makes its approach viable for mobile testing in nursing homes and clinics.

Maimon said the approach still needs to be developed and evaluated, but could have great potential.

“Today, millions of people around the world are already suffering or are at risk of suffering from cognitive decline and its disastrous consequences, and their numbers will only increase in the decades to come,” she said.

“Our method could pave the way for effective cognitive monitoring of the general population, and thus detect cognitive decline in its early stages, when treatment and prevention of severe decline is possible.”

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