NOV 02, 2021 10:00 AM PDT

Mini Sensors Help Detect Neuromotor Abnormalities in Infants

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Neuromotor abnormalities (such as abnormal movement and gross motor abilities) are often caused by often unseen damage to the central nervous system. As a result, research suggests that neuromotor abnormalities can be indicators, or precursors, to certain psychiatric conditions. For example, low muscle tone in infancy can be an indicator of autism; abnormal movements and problems with muscle movements can be signs of schizophrenia.

That’s why early detection of these abnormalities can be vital, allowing for more timely therapeutic intervention. These early interventions often take advantage of neuroplasticity, making timing all the more important. The challenge, however, is finding ways to identify abnormalities early enough to make a difference.

A group of researchers have developed wireless, miniature, non-invasive sensors that can be worn by infants to create models of their movements. Capturing these movements with such detail may enable doctors to catch potential precursors early. The sensors, their capabilities, and a proof-of-concept study of the sensor are described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

The sensors, which the research team referred to as Core Optimization for Regulation of Babies (CORB) sensors, work in a “time-coordinated fashion to record data from three-axis digital accelerometers and gyroscopes.” These sensors are significantly thinner, lighter, and smaller than similar, existing sensors. With the data collected from the sensors, researchers are able to structure “avatars” of the infant wearing a sensor. These avatars allow researchers to capture detailed recordings of a range of body movements. Sensors applied to the chest also allow researchers to gather a range of cardiological data, including a wearer’s vital signs. 

In the proof-of-concept study, researchers tested their sensors on infants 1 week, 1 month, and 3 months of age, all of whom had low or elevated risks of neuromotor abnormalities (e.g., low birth rate, time spent in the neonatal unit). About ten sensors were required to develop an effective reconstruction of the infant. Researchers concluded from their brief study that while they were able to develop detailed, complex reconstructions of infant movement, differences among infants were not necessarily indicative of atypical movements that could signal certain psychiatric conditions. 

More research is needed to develop baseline ranges of movement in infants, but the opportunity afforded by these sensors could make all the difference in early intervention. 

Sources: PNAS; Pediatrics

About the Author
  • Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
You May Also Like
NOV 12, 2021
Technology
Available Data for Cancer-Diagnosing AI Lacking Diverse Imagery
NOV 12, 2021
Available Data for Cancer-Diagnosing AI Lacking Diverse Imagery
The use of artificial intelligence to diagnose and monitor health conditions is on the rise. At its most basic level, AI ...
NOV 19, 2021
Technology
Artificial Intelligence Could Predict Risk of Atrial Fibrillation
NOV 19, 2021
Artificial Intelligence Could Predict Risk of Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common heart condition—by 2030, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearl ...
DEC 27, 2021
Technology
Synthetic Coating Protects Bacteria Being Used for Therapeutic Benefit
DEC 27, 2021
Synthetic Coating Protects Bacteria Being Used for Therapeutic Benefit
In recent years, the gut microbiome has been identified as a major player in determining an individual’s health. A ...
DEC 29, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Brain Cells in a Dish Were Taught to Play a Game of Pong
DEC 29, 2021
Brain Cells in a Dish Were Taught to Play a Game of Pong
If you were around in the 80s you might remember one of the first video games, called Pong. While it looks ridiculously ...
DEC 29, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
High-Throughput Tools Reveal New Proteins Involved in DNA Repair
DEC 29, 2021
High-Throughput Tools Reveal New Proteins Involved in DNA Repair
Our body is made up of trillions of cells, most of which contain a genome that suffers a lot of damage. That damage may ...
JAN 06, 2022
Space & Astronomy
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Successfully Deploys Secondary Mirror
JAN 06, 2022
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Successfully Deploys Secondary Mirror
As it hurdles through space, NASA’s Webb telescope has successfully completed another step in its multi-month boot ...
Loading Comments...