Mobile app can help doctors treat brain injury patients

 

A digital cookery app which asks people recovering from neurological injuries to cook a chilli con carne could help speed up patient assessment time, researchers have said.

Dr Lynne Barker, Reader in Cognitive Neuroscience at Sheffield Hallam University, created the Cooking Task app after research found that cooking can provide a sensitive and reliable measure of executive function ability after a brain injury.

And she is hopeful of securing funding to develop the app with University colleagues after winning an award at the Medipex Innovation Awards which acknowledges how technology can improve the efficiency of healthcare.

Research carried out by Dr Barker and colleagues found that the app can effectively distinguish between executive functions and Full Scale Intelligence Quotient (FSIQ) abilities, helping doctors to make a speedy diagnosis and programme of rehabilitation.

The Cooking Task app guides patients through a range of kitchen-based scenarios including cooking meals of increasing complexity and also completing an additional task, laying the table, to correspond with distractions faced during ‘real-world’ cooking.

Performance and verbal IQ contribute to effective task completion because sequential ordering of start and stop times for cooking items is likely mediated by a verbal plan of execution, with performance IQ contributing to spatial and non-verbal components of cooking ability.

Data has already been collected on the task and indicated that the task measures memory, planning, sequencing abilities commonly diminished after brain injury.

Lynne said: "It's long been known that the art of cooking tests a range of cognitive functions but doing this in a real-life situation is time-consuming and impractical. Our aim now is to develop the task further and create a more immersive interface that will operate on multiple platforms.

"This app tests the same skills in a fraction of the time. There is also a strong relationship between overall IQ score and overall accuracy on the Cooking Task application which suggests that overall intelligence is a crucial factor in task accuracy on this cooking measure."

Findings published in Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience indicate this task promises to be a reliable and briefer alternative to current cognitive assessment tasks after brain injury.

Judges at the Medipex Awards agreed provide a platform to showcase pioneering new ideas and technologies developed by, or with, NHS staff to improve patient care and make services more efficient.

The awards are run by Medipex Ltd., the innovation hub for NHS organisations in Yorkshire and the Humber and the East Midlands. She received her award from TV presenter and NHS paediatrician Dr Ranj Singh.

For press information: Laurie Harvey in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 2811 or email pressoffice@shu.ac.uk

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