INFORMS NEWS: MIT-led team wins IAAA competition

A team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), in collaboration with the Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, Mass., won the 2016 Innovative Applications in Analytics Award (IAAA) for research about how digitally connected tools could be used to help diagnose brain disorders.

The flagship competition of the Analytics Society of INFORMS, the award recognizes creative and unique applications of a combination of analytical techniques in a new area. The winning entry, “An Analytics Approach to the Clock Drawing Test for Cognitive Impairment,” was selected by a panel of judges following a series of presentations at the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research in Orlando, Fla.

Last year, professors Randall Davis and Cynthia Rudin of MIT, then-grad student William Souillard-Mandar and Dr. Dana Penney of the Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, Mass., published a paper demonstrating a set of analytical and machine-learning techniques that, when coupled with existing hardware, open up the possibility of detecting disorders such as dementia earlier than ever before.

For several decades, doctors have screened for conditions including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s with the clock drawing test, which asks subjects to draw an analog clock-face showing a specified time, and to copy a pre-drawn clock. Dr. Penney has been the clinical lead on the project, with test collection going on at Lahey and partnering medical institutions.

The project uses a commercially available digitizing ballpoint pen that measures its position on the paper 75 times a second via a camera built into the pen. This provides data that are far more precise than can be measured on an ordinary drawing, and captures timing information. Davis and Penney created software that computes a large number of novel measurements on this data, enabling the analysis of both the end product -- the drawing – and the process that produced it, i.e., all of the subject’s movements and hesitations.

In addition to a cash award of $2,000, the team will be recognized at the INFORMS Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn., where it will give a reprise presentation.