The Guardian

Wright State faculty lead efforts to expand dementia research

Sarah Cavender, News Writer

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Dr. Tanvi Banerjee, assistant professor of Computer Science at Wright State, along with four other faculty members, are working to expand research on dementia and technology to assist people affected by the disease.

Dementia refers to a broad category of brain disease. Alzheimer’s, a disease which falls under that category, affects over 5 million people, according to the research team’s website. The team has been researching the effects of the disease and technology that could potentially ease the burden on caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients.

“In a broader sense, we want to make an impact on the field of gerontechnology; a merger of gerontology through the use of technology,” Banerjee said. “Through the use of technology (tablet applications and wearable devices), we want to create a non-invasive, inexpensive and user-friendly system that can support aging in place by prolonging the ability of dyads (person with dementia and their caregiver) to live in their homes independently for longer time without reducing their quality of life.”

The researchers’ backgrounds include social work, biology and geriatrics. Doctors Jennifer Hughes, Larry Lawhorne and William Romine have been working on this project alongside Banerjee since 2014.

Students have also played an active role in the research. According to Banerjee, the students are “doing a phenomenal job of deploying, analyzing and showcasing our work.” Student researchers include graduate students Garrett Goodman, JoAnna Meyer and Morgan Freeman, and undergrads Alexandrea Oliver and Abby Edwards.

“This project has been a very educational experience for me,” Banerjee said. “Working with collaborators from different domains has helped us realize the holistic nature of this project; a perfect software device that can detect caregiver stress may be unusable if the device usage itself is a hindrance to use for caregivers.”

Their work has been recognized by the Women in Science issue from a UK based magazine Research Features.

“Working directly with caregivers has been both rewarding and challenging; our project is still in the feasibility and prototyping phase, so we have to explain the utility of creating an application that can monitor the task performance through a word game,” Banerjee said.

“Studies have shown a connection between task performance and stress, indicating that being able to monitor stress level indicators over time can lead to early detection of caregiver burnout. This can allow early intervention through community support services that can improve health outcomes for the caregivers, and indirectly, their care receivers. Sharing this information with caregivers and hearing their stories has been very illuminating and we feel motivated as we proceed to the next stage of our research,” said Banerjee.

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Wright State faculty lead efforts to expand dementia research