Research news

AI-based early detection of cognitive and motor changes in premature infants

Publish Date: 28.12.2020

Category: ERC & MSCA, Interdisciplinary research, Our contribution to sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals: 3 Good health and well-being, 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure (Indicators)

The central theme of the PARENT project is early detection of cognitive and motor impairments in prematurely born children. Premature birth significantly increases the risk of abnormalities in neurological development in childhood and adolescence, which can in turn leave lifelong consequences. Such an outcome, however, not only burdens the children themselves and their parents, but also represents a significant burden on society. Early detection of brain damage or dismaturation, as well as early detection of cognitive impairment, are important for improving the well-being of children and their families, as they allow vigilant monitoring of the child's development and medical assessment of the disorder. Based on this, doctors can, at the earliest possible stage of the disorder, begin with the necessary therapy to eliminate it or to reduce its consequences.

As part of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (MSCA-ITN) call, which is part of Horizon 2020, the Faculty of Computer and Information Science of the University of Ljubljana (UL FCIS), in a consortium with ten other research institutions, hospitals and companies, won the four-year PARENT project. As part of the project, the consortium will employ 15 doctoral students from various fields, who will jointly research new biomarkers and, based on them, develop computer systems for early detection of cognitive and motor impairments in prematurely born infants.

Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at UL FCIS, headed by Assist. Prof. Dr. Aleksander Sadikov, will employ one doctoral student who will develop new approaches and algorithms of artificial intelligence for the construction of diagnostic models from various image data and data obtained using eye-tracking systems. The student will work in close co-operation with another doctoral student within the same project,  employed by the young Slovenian start-up company NEUS Diagnostics d.o.o., under the supervision of Dr. Vida Groznik. NEUS Diagnostics is developing systems for early detection of cognitive impairment and dementia. During the project, doctoral students will visit other partner institutions for several months at a time, where they will be able to upgrade their research work in cooperation with foreign researchers and research organisations.

PARENT will establish a multidisciplinary approach to the development of diagnostic and prediction platforms focused on neonatal motor and cognitive impairment; the project will search for and monitor (new) biomarkers based on neuroimages, blood, motor skills, eye movements, etc. PARENT will critically contribute to the open software infrastructure for the diagnosis of neurodevelopmental diseases by integrating various information derived from clinical data, biomarkers, collection and processing of neuroimaging materials, data merging, machine learning, and new predictive algorithms.

The PARENT project consortium consists of partners from four EU countries: Italy (Turin Polytechnic, Bambino Gesu Children's Hospital, 7hc and GPI SPA), Slovenia (University of Ljubljana and NEUS Diagnostics d.o.o.), Spain (University of Cádiz and the Management Foundation for Biomedical Research from Cádiz), Belgium (Catholic University of Leuven and Icometrix nv) and Switzerland (TOELT GmbH). In addition, six other organizations (from Greece, the USA, Italy, Switzerland, Canada, and Spain) will participate in the project, which will offer doctoral students various educational trainings and research visits in their organisations.

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