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Tech Toys, an international health project

Tech-Toys, an international health project

By G. H.


April 7, 2022





On the occasion of World Health Day this Thursday, decided to promote the international project Tech-Toys combining data and artificial intelligence to improve the detection of neurodevelopmental disorders in children.

Led by the Stella Maris Institute of Pisa, the international Tech Toys project brings together a consortium of 5 public partners (Stella Maris, AP-HP.Sorbonne University, Sorbonne University, Ludwig Maximilians University (LMU), Istanbul Technical University) and a start-up (Khymeia S.r.l.) to improve the detection of neurodevelopmental disorders in at-risk subjects. If we talk about him today, it is first to promote a project using Artificial Intelligence. But also because he has simply won the Era PerMed2021 call. This call aimed to support translational research projects in the field of in the field of personalized medicine. To this end, ERA PerMed encouraged interdisciplinary collaborations by promoting synergies between preclinical or clinical research with bioinformatics, ELSA research (ethical, legal and social aspects) or implementation research including health economics.

To come back to Tech-Toys, the core of the project is to acquire continuous digital biomarkers from sensory sensors embedded in children's toys and predict the risk of developing a neurodevelopmental disorder from the study of their micromotor skills and early social interactions. Disorders that are usually very hard to detect and that, de factoThese disorders are usually very difficult to detect and, as a result, make it more difficult to diagnose them early in order to treat them better.

How does it work?

The Tech-Toys project is based on toys developed by the Italian start-up and the Stella Maris Foundation of Pisa. The toys are of course perfectly adapted to the natural environment of the infant. For tracking purposes, they are equipped with motion and pressure sensors. Researchers can then observe infants with a high risk of developing developmental disorders in their home environment. The "population" of the neonatology department of Professor Laurence Foix-L'Hélias of the ORIGYNE medical school was chosen for this study. During one year, the researchers will collect data on the development of the fine and early motor skills of the babies, as well as on their look, their prosody (all the oral features of a speaker's verbal expression, ndr) and their social competence in their natural interactions with their parents. "From these data, which will be analyzed by new algorithms of artificial intelligence (AI), we will be able to identify dysfunctional indices of motor skills and interaction that can predict negative development", confirms the psychiatrist.confirms the psychiatrist. These clues will allow us to develop specific data profiles (numerical biomarkers) for the main neurodevelopmental disorders. These numerical biomarkers will then be tested and compared with standardized clinical scales and neuropediatric and child psychiatric assessments of infants. At the end of the project, researchers will use AI to evaluate which combination of biomarkers provides the best prediction for early detection of neurodevelopmental abnormalities in the first months of life.

The data will then be provided to clinicians (pediatricians, neuropediatricians, child psychiatrists) to monitor children's neurodevelopment and implement personalized early intervention. In the first months of life, brain plasticity is high. Therefore, the earlier, more intensive and appropriate the intervention, the more likely it is to change the course of children's lives. The results of the project will open new horizons for the early, personalized and home-based detection of neurodevelopmental disorders, but also for the optimization of their treatment.

Better diagnosis and prognosis

One in ten children in the West today suffers from a neurodevelopmental disorder. These disorders, which have major consequences for the individual, family and society, typically affect several developmental domains, including sensory-motor, cognitive, communicative, learning and behavioral. Despite a better understanding of these disorders, their diagnosis and treatment are often delayed, several months after the first clinical signs are observed. Early detection is one of the major challenges in pediatrics today, as early intervention improves prognosis.

Professor David Cohen, Head of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Professor Mohamed Chetouani of the PIRoS team atISIR have developed this international research project in collaboration with the Stella Maris Foundation of Pisa, the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich and the Technical University of Istanbul. "We have been working with the PIRoS team for many years on new technologies and on understanding and modeling social signals and human interactions in neurodevelopmental disorderssays David Cohen. We have set up an experimental test room and a robotics laboratory in my department. We have already carried out several research projects together. It is thanks to this long collaboration that we were able to launch the Tech-Toys project, which aims to provide new tools to analyze and model infant behavior and interactions during neurodevelopment."

Source: Sorbonne University