HCN News & Notes

MassAITC Funds First Seven Pilot Projects

AMHERST — The Massachusetts AI and Technology Center for Connected Care in Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease (MassAITC), housed at UMass Amherst, announced the distribution of $1.7 million to its first seven pilot projects. The goal of the funding is to spur innovation at the intersection of AI, technology, and aging.

MassAITC is a collaboration between the Commonwealth’s premier institutions of education and health, including UMass Amherst, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brandeis University, and Northeastern University, and is led by Deepak Ganesan and Benjamin Marlin, both professors in UMass Amherst’s Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences, and Niteesh Choudhry, executive director of the Center for Healthcare Delivery Sciences and professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Two UMass Amherst researchers in the university’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences, Michael Busa and Amanda Paluch, are among the pilot-project recipients. Busa directs the Center for Human Health and Performance; Paluch is a professor of Kinesiology.

More than 90% of older Americans would prefer to stay in their homes as they age. However, the prevalence of chronic illness, including Alzheimer’s disease, can make the goal of successful aging at home impossible without substantial support. MassAITC pilot projects will make great strides toward the goal of aging at home through interdisciplinary research that draws on the perspectives of patients, caregivers, clinicians, behavioral scientists, and other stakeholders. These perspectives inform the work of teams whose expertise lies in wearable and contactless sensing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

The MassAITC pilot awards competition is driven by a broad mandate to leverage technology, including AI and machine learning, to address a range of challenges related to aging and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (AD/ADRD). According to Ganesan, “the pilots bring together an exceptional group of interdisciplinary investigators and also leverage outstanding capabilities for testing and validating these technologies and expertise across the center, including state-of-the-art facilities and patient cohorts to facilitate validation of these technologies in real-world, at-home settings.”

Choudhry added that “we are particularly pleased that many of the awarded projects represent collaborations between the private sector and academia. The built-in engagement with a robust network of experts and resources is part of what sets the program apart.”

The selected Year 1 pilots are:

• Testing a vocal biomarker platform for remote detection and monitoring of cognitive impairment in the home environment (Sonde Health Inc.), Bradford Dickerson and Bonnie Wang (Massachusetts General Hospital);

• Developing real-world digital biomarkers from wearable sensors in Alzheimer’s disease, Jen Blankenship (VivoSense Inc.), Michael Busa (UMass Amherst);

• Vascular aging using infrasonic hemodynography embedded into everyday earbuds, Anna Barnacka (MindMics Inc.);

• Detecting frailty in home environments through non-invasive, whole-room body-heat sensing in older adults, Amanda Paluch (UMass Amherst), Dae Hyun Kim (Hebrew SeniorLife), Rags Gupta (Butlr Technologies Inc.);

• Smartphone blood-pressure monitoring for healthy aging, Edward Wang and Alison Moore (University of California San Diego);

• Sensor-guided psychopharmacology in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, Ipsit Vahia and Rachel Sava (McLean Hospital); and

• Early acute illness detection in delirium and dementia, Jane Saczynski (Northeastern University), Edward Marcantonio (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center).

MassAITC is a member of the a2 Collective — a program funded by the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health — that administers the annual a2 Pilot Awards for projects using AI and technology approaches to benefit older adults, including individuals with AD/ADRD and their caregivers.