App That Spots Depression Ready For Primetime
Could a mobile app help doctors diagnose depression and other neurological problems? A DC area company has one and it’s grabbing attention from the military and top hospitals.
Silver Spring-based AnthroTronix has been on a roll since October when its mobile neurobehavioral tool known as DANA was cleared by the FDA. DANA detects neurological problems like depression and PTSD through a series of questions and brain games. It also recently won the coveted gold Edison Award for medical testing and evaluation. DANA is being used by the military, but now clinicians are interested in it as a bedside tool. And there’s potential to create a version geared to consumers interested in tracking wellness.
Founder Dr. Cori Lathan says her 15-person R&D company, which is working on other innovations, is at a crossroads. She’d like to find clinical partners who can help scale the mobile health app and other products. Another option is to spin off DANA from AnthroTronix under a separate business entity.
DANA was originally developed for the military to do assessments of soldiers. The brain games, a sensitive measure of brain function, study how quickly a person responds to answers. The second piece is a series of eight or nine overall health questions and four insomnia questions that help identify cognitive impairments with the help of a clinician. (The app doesn’t diagnose.) Cori says the FDA clearance was necessary to do work with the military, but it’s now being tested at Johns Hopkins and Duke for clinical uses.
A Johns Hopkins clinician has been using DANA on patients with severe depression, multiple sclerosis and eating disorders. He has since put in a proposal to use it for HIV patients. For some patients, it’s being used to determine if newly prescribed medication is having any neurological effects. A doctor at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in New York is using it to test neurocognitive function on Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular patients and a doctor from Duke is advising the study.
Cori says AnthroTronix is also working with the Navy on a suite of wearable sensors for soldiers on ships; monitoring body movement and brain health can predict sopite syndrome, a neurological disorder caused by prolonged periods of motion. The company also has an ongoing project with the Navy and Army to train deployed surgeons on laparoscopic and robotic surgery using instrumented gloves (above) and tablets. AnthroTronix is also working with DARPA on new ways for humans and robots to interact. Brain-computer interfaces such as EEG could help robot operators multi-task.