Westmont Magazine Detecting Infants with Greater Risk for Cerebral Palsy
Premature infants face an increased risk for cerebral palsy (CP), and detecting the condition early can lead to better treatment and outcomes. Don Patterson, professor of computer science, has patented a limb-motion monitor that may identify pre-term babies most likely to be diagnosed with CP. He is collaborating with a team of scientists from UC Irvine, Children’s Hospital of Orange County and Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Long Beach to demonstrate that it works on a larger scale. A grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) enables them to extend the technique by using depth-cameras (similar to Apple’s FaceID) and to pursue FDA approval for the device.
NeuroComp Systems, which specializes in this kind of translational research, administers the Small Business Innovation Research grant. The initial study involved 10 pre-term babies, and the team has now received funding to enroll an additional 200. Patterson and Westmont student researchers are building the data pipeline, using cloud-based resources, to handle the new influx of data. “We’ll look for known patterns and use machine learning to identify more precise motion-based risk factors for CP,” Patterson says. “Already our team has improved on published results. I hope that Westmont students can contribute to something that makes a worldwide impact in medicine and health.
“I’m also excited that this work primarily focuses on making life better place for vulnerable moms and kids,” Patterson says. “I want our students to see how they can apply the breadth of data analytics, math and computer science in the world.”
Patterson, who taught at UC Irvine before joining Westmont’s faculty in 2015, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Cornell University. He served as a naval operations officer for four years in Japan and Sardinia before completing a doctorate at the University of Washington.