The development is based on ‘Brain Profiler’, a new science-based method that looks at mental disorders as brain disturbances, which can be accurately diagnosed in a clinical manner.
Developed by Senior Psychiatrist Dr. Abraham Peled, who partnered with Israeli startup Montfort and their EncephaLog™ application, the approach aims to bridge between classical Psychiatry and computational neuroscience.
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Based on vast literature of computational neuroscience, the method could also allow effective intervention in the future, to fix disturbance, possibly resulting in a cure.
“Psychiatry as a medical field is facing a major diagnostic challenge: today’s psychiatric diagnosis is based on a descriptive approach, relying solely on the patient’s description of their symptoms and the clinicians’ observation of that patient”, explains Abraham Peled, an expert in Psychiatry, Chair of Department in Shaar Menashe Psychiatric Hospital and a lecturer in Technion – Israel Institute of technology.
“Other medical fields, however, utilize an etiological diagnosis which clearly defines the pathology, or symptoms, of a specific place in the body. For example, Appendicitis is the infection (the pathology) of an organ in the body, the appendix. A psychiatric diagnosis such as ’Depression’ does not correlate to a specific organ in the body, nor does it define any pathology.”
Montfort uses smartphone technology and AI in order to provide FDA-cleared digital neurological tests for patients with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and more. So far, the company has focused on motor and cognitive test protocols, routinely used by neurologists around the world. As a result of the cooperation with Dr. Peled in the past year, Montfort added to its test protocol affective indicators assessing the patient’s anxiety, depression and more.
Dr. Abraham Peled: “Having checked several possibilities to apply the method in recent years, I chose Montfort because of their app’s demonstrated ability to bridge between classical Psychiatry and computational neuroscience. Montfort ‘translates’ the digital indicators it collects, to terms that psychiatrists are familiar with like: depression, anxiety, psychosis, and suggests an explanation in terms of neurological networks connectivity problems. As a next step, the diagnosed network disturbance will be demonstrated by EEG (electroencephalogram) a procedure that was previously very complicated to conduct, therefore available only in hospitals, but is now available to any patient at home.”
Dr. Ziv Yekutieli, Montfort CEO: “With the complexity of human brain in general, and psychiatric disorders in particular, psychiatrists have a hard time keeping up with advances in other medical fields. A practitioner has to take clinical decisions based on subjective and non-quantitative data, which is gathered at random, short clinical visits, that do not reflect the patient’s actual status throughout his or her daily life. These difficulties limit the psychiatrist’s ability to treat the patient optimally, and limit pharmaceutical companies’ ability to develop new drugs.”
According to the WHO, over 300 million people worldwide suffer from psychiatric disorders. Without optimal treatment, these individuals suffer severe consequences that affect their health, their families, and the entire society.
Dr. Peled heads an international group of psychiatrists that support the method, applying it upon the upcoming launch of the new version on Montfort’s platform. With more use, the database will increase and be analyzed in the cloud by Montfort tools. According to Peled and Yekutieli, building a large database is crucial to validation of computational neuroscience-based brain diagnosis, which can only be achieved through Digital Psychiatry.
The new app on Montfort’s platform will allow a self-collection of patient’s indicators such as his movement, social interaction patterns, and many more. Part of these indicators are already collected by researchers and companies. For the first time, a comprehensive collection of all required indicators will be available, in parallel to collecting data by the psychiatrist at the clinic, and using the AI model to predict any brain connectivity disturbances, which could explain the disorder.
“Not knowing the causes of psychiatric disorders has serious consequences for treatment”, says Dr. Peled. “We cannot fix a system if we do not know exactly what is wrong with it. It is absolutely critical that we discover the causes of mental disorders if we ever hope to cure them.” Peled spent many years treating severe patients, including schizophrenia. The frustration of not being able to truly cure them drove him to change his approaches and connect to the digital world and to algorithms, including Montfort’s application.