Sunday, November 7, 2010

Test for mental and physical disorders

We have a lot in common in Canada, with our friends in Australia, especially being in the land of Commonwealth. I often listen to podcasts from down under. The latest, Innovations, presented an interesting diagnostic tool.

For so often,  it is not until death can dementia be diagnosed. Adult children often miss the signs of dementia in parents. Dementia is a symptom of many disorders, but a symptom we might avoid admitting. You just find it hard to admit what might be going wrong, until the disorder manifests itself so blatantly, that you cannot miss it. A parent shovelling snow in the backyard in June, or getting lost while driving. These are signs of health issues.

Other disorders, bipolar, unipolar, schizophrenia, depression, go unnoticed by friends, family and employers. I know. After moving, changing jobs, school boards, leaving family behind, giving palliative care to my parents, pregrieving, all left me in a bad state. I suffered from depression and my principal was relentless. Of course, workplace bullying is another mental health issue, and I digress.

Professor Brian Lithgow is a biomedical engineer at Monash University, who calls his invention EVestG™, "electrovestibulography" which is something akin to an ECG for the mind because the device analyses the brain's electrical signals in the same way an electrocardiogram can detect heart problems.

They place an ear monitor, takes a baseline reading then introduces a stimulus: i.e., tilts the chair.
The team noticed that people who were depressed were having dizziness. I found, when depressed, that I developed a panic attack when parking on a steep hill. I realize that I was afraid of the dizziness.

Brian Lithgow moved to Winnipeg, where they have funding for another research trial. Studies have been done in Australia, but they need more data. We know the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, and this looks to be an interesting tool.

Visiting Professor Brian Lithgow
University of Manitoba Diagnostic and Neurosignal Processing Research Lab 
Riverview Health Centre, 1 Morley Avenue 
Winnipeg, MB, R3L 2P4, Canada

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