EMPIRIS supports neurotechnology research on early signs of dementia

© 2020 EPFL

© 2020 EPFL

Strengthening the existing collaboration with researchers and partner hospitals in Bern, Barcelona, Geneva, and Sion, the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience has been awarded funding for four years to detect early signs of dementia using innovative neurotechnology.

Project Description

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in the world. It frequently leads to dementia, and is expected to affect 14.2 million people worldwide by 2040. Although PD is classically linked to motor symptoms, today it is recognized as a heterogeneous disorder that affects several other brain regions and networks, including cortical and sub-cortical structures. Hallucinations are frequent in patients with PD, appearing in up to 60% of patients, and they often occur regularly, even on a daily basis. As the disease progresses, they increase in frequency and severity and are considered to be one of the most debilitating non-motor symptoms. In addition, clinical observations have associated hallucinations with higher risk of developing cognitive decline and dementia, and with a higher mortality rate.

By bridging insights from neuroscience, clinical research, and sensorimotor robotics, EPFL’s Blanke Lab has developed, validated and patented a robotic system, which is able to induce specific hallucinations safely, repeatedly and under controlled conditions. This robotic procedure provides researchers and clinicians with new objective tools to assess the occurrence and intensity of subjective hallucinatory phenomena in PD and its relation to cognitive decline and dementia.

The overall goals of the projects are to identify behavioral and neuronal markers of psychosis and dementia, and to clinically establish and validate a new procedure for an early diagnostic.

If successful, the present research project will allow us to improve the control, quantification, and prediction of a patient’s proneness for psychiatric complications and dementia to an unprecedented level.

The EMPIRIS Foundation is an umbrella foundation based in Zurich and devoted solely to charitable purposes. It promotes science, research, and education across various fields and subjects.