High School Student Develops App to Detect Parkinson’s and ET

High school student Erin Smith has developed an app that helps to diagnose Parkinson’s disease and possibly other neurological conditions through facial recognition. She serves as an example of how young people are stepping up to invest themselves in making a difference in the lives of others through their ingenuity and motivation. Here is her story.

By Erin Smith.
Senior at Shawnee Mission West High School
Overland Park, Kansas

About two years ago, I was watching a video by the Michael J. Fox Foundation when I noticed that whenever Michael J. Fox or another Parkinson’s disease patient would smile or laugh, it came off as emotionally distant. Further, as I talked to Parkinson’s caretakers and clinicians, they reported similar observations in their loved ones years before diagnosis. As I read medical studies, I found that the often overlooked sections of the brain that undergo the earliest changes in Parkinson’s patients are the same parts involved in the formation of facial expressions.

My mind instantly went back to a TV show I had watched as a child called Lie to Me,  where a deception expert would solve crimes by studying facial expressions to determine if people were lying. I wondered if facial expressions could have similar health care implications and provide external manifestations of neurological pathology. 

FacePrint App is Born
I then launched a study in partnership with the Michael J. Fox Foundation Trial Finder to expand my research on a national level. Using the data I collected, I developed FacePrint, a tool to diagnose and monitor Parkinson’s disease using the early stage facial muscle indicators that I identified. FacePrint provides an inexpensive, remote tool for early stage Parkinson’s disease, requiring only a computer and webcam. Further, FacePrint is compatible with facial recognition used by Snapchat and Facebook, creating a selfie that could save your life.

Differentiating Between Parkinson’s and ET
However, after developing FacePrint, I quickly began to notice distinct facial movement differences in patients with other neurological diseases. I started formulating the idea that facial behavioral biomarkers could non-invasively differentiate between Parkinson’s disease and Essential Tremor patients. My new mission has become to create a robust, differential diagnostic and monitoring tool for Parkinson’s disease and Essential Tremor patients. It is my hope that developing accurate diagnostic and monitoring systems for these two diseases will lead to improved, earlier treatment options and ultimately a cure.

Ridding the World of Neurological Disorders
Beyond my goals for my research from a medical perspective, I also hope to create a source of hope.

I firmly believe that change occurs on an individual level. It is one person doing one thing different one time. It is one person caring about one topic and doing everything that he or she can to make a difference in that area. It is one person taking one step forward one time.

I believe that the journey towards a cure for Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s disease will follow the same pattern. However, while change occurs on an individual basis, impact occurs when we all come together to leverage that change. My work is just one piece of the larger puzzle. We must all come together and put the pieces together. It will take everyone devoting their time, efforts, and stories to lead to a day when Parkinson’s disease and Essential Tremor are cured conditions. Although it is easy to become discouraged, my research has filled me with a deep sense of optimism for our future. There are researchers, patients, caretakers, clinicians, and everyday citizens around the world who are making remarkable progress and strides in this field. We are not marching alone. Rather, we are marching hand-in-hand, striving towards the day when our collective impact will create a world without neurological disorders.

YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN ERIN’S STUDY

Erin is expanding her original research to include essential tremor and persons with no neurological disorders to determine if this test (her app) can easily differentiate between the two, possibly saving patients years of misdiagnosis. The study takes about 10-15 minutes and requires a computer with a webcam. It typically works best on Chrome, which can be easily downloaded online if not already installed (see link below). If you have ET or Parkinson’s Disease please take this test and please encourage your friends and family members without either disease to participate as well.

3 thoughts on “High School Student Develops App to Detect Parkinson’s and ET

  1. HERBAL

    Diagnosed last June after almost a year of many, many specialists telling me they had no idea what was wrong. My symptoms were all non-motor, insomnia, leg pain that will not go away, and anxiety issues. Had a DAT scan and that was the test that verified PD.

    Started on Requip, had such bad fatigue that I had to quit that and then started on Sinemet, no changes too. My son purchased PD herbal remedy online from Best Health Herbal Centre. My son said (Best Health Herbal Centre) to him that the herbal remedy will reverse my PD under 6 weeks. So after using the PD herbal remedy for 6 weeks, my PD was totally reversed. No more major fatigue, insomnia is better, leg pain disappeared. I can walk 4 miles now without feeling pain.

    I am 64, was diagnosed at 63. I thought i will die with brain fog and fatigue, but Best Health Herbal Centre saved my life.

  2. I live in SO California and live with tremors. I am no longer able to do anything that involves sharp things (scissors, knives, pens) or requires two hands to do. I have looked into DBS and decided that the reported results were not worth it. My insurance is thru Kaiser Permanente and I love my neurologist but he has told me that there is nothing that can be done to stop the trremors. I am sure he would support the focused ultrasound thing for me. I have several phone calls to make. I realize, but will wait until the weekend is over. Would someone please contact me about the procedure? My cell # is 619 887-3199.

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