Health Research Showcase, Rotman Research, Jen Ryan

Baycrest demonstrates eye-tracking cognitive test at Queen’s Park

Jen Ryan, caho, Rotman Research Baycrest joined 22 other Ontario hospitals at Queen’s Park to celebrate health research on December 6.

The Health Research Showcase, organized by the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO), featured Rotman Research Institute Senior Scientist and Canada Research Chair in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory, Dr. Jennifer Ryan, and her team’s work on an eye-tracking based cognitive assessment that could help detect memory problems sooner.

Baycrest’s booth also shared information about other research initiatives, such as the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CC-ABHI), Cogniciti and KL-Care, and featured a sculpture from The Brain Project, the successful charitable art installation that raised awareness and funds over the summer of 2016. 

Dr. Ryan’s fast and easy-to-use screening software can assist family physicians in evaluating cognitive decline in clients. This test is not affected by language, education barriers or motor challenges and could provide more accurate cognition test results.

By tracking a client’s eye movements as they view images on a screen, this innovative software offers insight into the performance of the brain’s memory regions. Early detection of memory problems could lead to faster deployment of appropriate treatments and support for maintaining brain health.

This software makes use of her team’s recent discovery of the brain pathways that influence eye movements and its relation to memories.

“This showcase was a great way to demonstrate how a better understanding of the brain can lead to targeted clinical research that will improve care for the province’s aging population,” says Dr. Ryan.

To date, the software has been tested by more than 200 people and Dr. Ryan and her team plan to run additional validation studies on people with Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Research was conducted with support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Ontario Centres of Excellence.


health-research-showcase-rotman-researchAdditional funding would help improve access to the software by allowing testing to be conducted through laptop webcams, to speed up the tool’s adoption in clinics through the creation of more user-friendly software and reports for patients, and allow for regular check-ups through the creation of different versions of the test.