Publications by authors named "Radia Zeghari"

9 Publications

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Remote cognitive assessment of older adults in rural areas by telemedicine and automatic speech and video analysis: protocol for a cross-over feasibility study.

BMJ Open 2021 09 2;11(9):e047083. Epub 2021 Sep 2.

Cobtek (Cognition-Behaviour-Technology) Lab, FRIS, Universite Cote d'Azur, Nice, France.

Introduction: Early detection of cognitive impairments is crucial for the successful implementation of preventive strategies. However, in rural isolated areas or so-called 'medical deserts', access to diagnosis and care is very limited. With the current pandemic crisis, now even more than ever, remote solutions such as telemedicine platforms represent great potential and can help to overcome this barrier. Moreover, current advances made in voice and image analysis can help overcome the barrier of physical distance by providing additional information on a patients' emotional and cognitive state. Therefore, the aim of this study is to evaluate the feasibility and reliability of a videoconference system for remote cognitive testing empowered by automatic speech and video analysis.

Methods And Analysis: 60 participants (aged 55 and older) with and without cognitive impairment will be recruited. A complete neuropsychological assessment including a short clinical interview will be administered in two conditions, once by telemedicine and once by face-to-face. The order of administration procedure will be counterbalanced so half of the sample starts with the videoconference condition and the other half with the face-to-face condition. Acceptability and user experience will be assessed among participants and clinicians in a qualitative and quantitative manner. Speech and video features will be extracted and analysed to obtain additional information on mood and engagement levels. In a subgroup, measurements of stress indicators such as heart rate and skin conductance will be compared.

Ethics And Dissemination: The procedures are not invasive and there are no expected risks or burdens to participants. All participants will be informed that this is an observational study and their consent taken prior to the experiment. Demonstration of the effectiveness of such technology makes it possible to diffuse its use across all rural areas ('medical deserts') and thus, to improve the early diagnosis of neurodegenerative pathologies, while providing data crucial for basic research. Results from this study will be published in peer-reviewed journals.
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September 2021

Pilot Study to Assess the Feasibility of a Mobile Unit for Remote Cognitive Screening of Isolated Elderly in Rural Areas.

Int J Environ Res Public Health 2021 06 5;18(11). Epub 2021 Jun 5.

Cognitive Behavior Technology (CoBTeK) Lab., FRIS-Université Côte d'Azur, 06100 Nice, France.

Background: Given the current COVID-19 pandemic situation, now more than ever, remote solutions for assessing and monitoring individuals with cognitive impairment are urgently needed. Older adults in particular, living in isolated rural areas or so-called 'medical deserts', are facing major difficulties in getting access to diagnosis and care. Telemedical approaches to assessments are promising and seem well accepted, reducing the burden of bringing patients to specialized clinics. However, many older adults are not yet adequately equipped to allow for proper implementation of this technology. A potential solution could be a mobile unit in the form of a van, equipped with the telemedical system which comes to the patients' home. The aim of this proof-of-concept study is to evaluate the feasibility and reliability of such mobile unit settings for remote cognitive testing. Methods and analysis: eight participants (aged between 69 and 86 years old) from the city of Digne-Les-Bains volunteered for this study. A basic neuropsychological assessment, including a short clinical interview, is administered in two conditions, by telemedicine in a mobile clinic (equipped van) at a participants' home and face to face in a specialized clinic. The administration procedure order is randomized, and the results are compared with each other. Acceptability and user experience are assessed among participants and clinicians in a qualitative and quantitative manner. Measurements of stress indicators were collected for comparison.

Results: The analysis revealed no significant differences in test results between the two administration procedures. Participants were, overall, very satisfied with the mobile clinic experience and found the use of the telemedical system relatively easy.

Conclusion: A mobile unit equipped with a telemedical service could represent a solution for remote cognitive testing overcoming barriers in rural areas to access specialized diagnosis and care.
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June 2021

Grasping Social Apathy: The Role of Reach-To-Grasp Action Kinematics for the Assessment of Social Apathy in Mild Neurocognitive Disorders.

J Alzheimers Dis 2021 ;81(2):569-582

Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Florence, Florence, Italy.

Background: Social apathy, a reduction in initiative in proposing or engaging in social activities or interactions, is common in mild neurocognitive disorders (MND). Current apathy assessment relies on self-reports or clinical scales, but growing attention is devoted to defining more objective, measurable and non-invasive apathy proxies.

Objective: In the present study we investigated the interest of recording action kinematics in a social reach-to-grasp task for the assessment of social apathy.

Methods: Thirty participants took part in the study: 11 healthy controls (HC; 6 females, mean age = 68.3±10.5 years) and 19 subjects with MND (13 females, mean age = 75.7±6.3 years). Based on the Diagnostic Criteria for Apathy, MND subjects were classified as socially apathetic (A-MND, N = 9) versus non-apathetic (NA-MND, N = 10). SensRing, a ring-shaped wearable sensor, was placed on their index finger, and subjects were asked to reach and grasp a can to place it into a cup (individual condition) and pass it to a partner (social condition).

Results: In the reach-to-grasp phase of the action, HC and NA-MND showed different acceleration and velocity profiles in the social versus individual condition. No differences were found for A-MND.

Conclusion: Previous studies showed the interest of recording patients' level of weekly motor activity for apathy assessment. Here we showed that a 10-min reach-to-grasp task may provide information to differentiate socially apathetic and non-apathetic subjects with MND, thus providing a tool easily usable in the clinical practice. Future studies with a bigger sample are needed to better characterize these findings.
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September 2021

Innovative motor and cognitive dual-task approaches combining upper and lower limbs may improve dementia early detection.

Sci Rep 2021 Apr 2;11(1):7449. Epub 2021 Apr 2.

The BioRobotics Institute, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Viale Rinaldo Piaggio 34, Pontedera, 56025, Pisa, Italy.

Motor and Cognitive Dual-Task (MCDT) represents an innovative chance to assess Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). We compare two novel MCDTs, fore-finger tapping (FTAP), toe-tapping (TTHP), to gold standards for cognitive screening (Mini-Mental State Examination-MMSE), and to a well-established MCDT (GAIT). We administered the aforementioned MCDTs to 44 subjects (MCIs and controls). Motor parameters were extracted, and correlations with MMSE investigated. Logistic regression models were built, and AUC areas computed. Spearman's correlation demonstrated that FTAP and TTHP significantly correlate with MMSE, at each cognitive load. AUC areas computed report similar (FTAP, 0.87), and even higher (TTHP, 0.97) capability to identify MCIs, if compared to GAIT (0.92). We investigated the use of novel MCDT approaches to assess MCI, aiming to enrich the clinical repertoire with objective and non-invasive tools. Our protocol shows good correlations with MMSE, and reaches high performances in identifying MCI, adopting simpler exercises.
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April 2021

Correlations Between Facial Expressivity and Apathy in Elderly People With Neurocognitive Disorders: Exploratory Study.

JMIR Form Res 2021 Mar 31;5(3):e24727. Epub 2021 Mar 31.

Cognition Behaviour Technology Research Unit, Memory Center, Université Côte d'Azur, Nice, France.

Background: Neurocognitive disorders are often accompanied by behavioral symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and/or apathy. These symptoms can occur very early in the disease progression and are often difficult to detect and quantify in nonspecialized clinical settings.

Objective: We focus in this study on apathy, one of the most common and debilitating neuropsychiatric symptoms in neurocognitive disorders. Specifically, we investigated whether facial expressivity extracted through computer vision software correlates with the severity of apathy symptoms in elderly subjects with neurocognitive disorders.

Methods: A total of 63 subjects (38 females and 25 males) with neurocognitive disorder participated in the study. Apathy was assessed using the Apathy Inventory (AI), a scale comprising 3 domains of apathy: loss of interest, loss of initiation, and emotional blunting. The higher the scale score, the more severe the apathy symptoms. Participants were asked to recall a positive and a negative event of their life, while their voice and face were recorded using a tablet device. Action units (AUs), which are basic facial movements, were extracted using OpenFace 2.0. A total of 17 AUs (intensity and presence) for each frame of the video were extracted in both positive and negative storytelling. Average intensity and frequency of AU activation were calculated for each participant in each video. Partial correlations (controlling for the level of depression and cognitive impairment) were performed between these indexes and AI subscales.

Results: Results showed that AU intensity and frequency were negatively correlated with apathy scale scores, in particular with the emotional blunting component. The more severe the apathy symptoms, the less expressivity in specific emotional and nonemotional AUs was displayed from participants while recalling an emotional event. Different AUs showed significant correlations depending on the sex of the participant and the task's valence (positive vs negative story), suggesting the importance of assessing male and female participants independently.

Conclusions: Our study suggests the interest of employing computer vision-based facial analysis to quantify facial expressivity and assess the severity of apathy symptoms in subjects with neurocognitive disorders. This may represent a useful tool for a preliminary apathy assessment in nonspecialized settings and could be used to complement classical clinical scales. Future studies including larger samples should confirm the clinical relevance of this kind of instrument.
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March 2021

The "Interest Game": A Ludic Application to Improve Apathy Assessment in Patients with Neurocognitive Disorders.

J Alzheimers Dis 2020 ;74(2):669-677

Université Côte d'Azur, CoBTeK Laboratory, Nice, France.

Background: Apathy, a highly prevalent behavioral disorder in Alzheimer's disease and other related disorders, is currently assessed using clinical scales as it is for all neuropsychiatric disorders.

Objective: The aim of this study is to propose a new type of assessment using new technologies designed to assess loss of interest by a more implicit and indirect method.

Methods: The Interest Game is a form of interactive self-report, where categories of interests are presented in order to quantify them and identify the activities that constitute them. Two indices can be extracted, the number of categories and the number of activities selected. We compared the scores between three groups: Apathetic (A) and Non-Apathetic (NA) subjects (according to the Apathy Diagnostic Criteria) and controls with no objective cognitive impairment.

Results: 95 subjects were included. Results showed that subjects from the A group had significantly less interests (both categories and images selected) than the NA group. As expected, the control group selected a higher number of categories than the other groups. The diagnosis (minor or major neurocognitive disorder) and level of education had also a significant effect on the number of categories selected. Furthermore, subjects with major neurocognitive disorder (NCD) had significantly less interests than minor NCD group. The number of categories measure was more sensitive than the number of images selected.

Conclusion: The Interest Game is a promising tool to quantify and identify subject interests and differentiate between apathetic and non-apathetic subjects. Future studies should focus on including more apathetic subjects in the minor NCD group and validating this tool with the general population.
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August 2021

Recommendations for the Nonpharmacological Treatment of Apathy in Brain Disorders.

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry 2020 04 9;28(4):410-420. Epub 2019 Aug 9.

Université Côte d'Azur, CoBTeK lab (VM, FB, RD, AG, AK,AT, RZ, PR), Nice, France; Association Innovation Alzheimer (VM, PR), Nice, France; Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) de Nice (RD, PR), CMRR, Nice, France.

Apathy is a common neuropsychiatric syndrome observed across many neurocognitive and psychiatric disorders. Although there are currently no definitive standard therapies for the treatment of apathy, nonpharmacological treatment (NPT) is often considered to be at the forefront of clinical management. However, guidelines on how to select, prescribe, and administer NPT in clinical practice are lacking. Furthermore, although new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are beginning to be employed in NPT, their role is still unclear. The objective of the present work is to provide recommendations for the use of NPT for apathy, and to discuss the role of ICT in this domain, based on opinions gathered from experts in the field. The expert panel included 20 researchers and healthcare professionals working on brain disorders and apathy. Following a standard Delphi methodology, experts answered questions via several rounds of web-surveys, and then discussed the results in a plenary meeting. The experts suggested that NPT are useful to consider as therapy for people presenting with different neurocognitive and psychiatric diseases at all stages, with evidence of apathy across domains. The presence of a therapist and/or a caregiver is important in delivering NPT effectively, but parts of the treatment may be performed by the patient alone. NPT can be delivered both in clinical settings and at home. However, while remote treatment delivery may be cost and time-effective, it should be considered with caution, and tailored based on the patient's cognitive and physical profile and living conditions.
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April 2020

Detecting Apathy in Older Adults with Cognitive Disorders Using Automatic Speech Analysis.

J Alzheimers Dis 2019 ;69(4):1183-1193

CoBTeK (Cognition-Behaviour-Technology) Lab, Memory Center CHU, Université Côte d'Azur, Nice, France.

Background: Apathy is present in several psychiatric and neurological conditions and has been found to have a severe negative effect on disease progression. In older people, it can be a predictor of increased dementia risk. Current assessment methods lack objectivity and sensitivity, thus new diagnostic tools and broad-scale screening technologies are needed.

Objective: This study is the first of its kind aiming to investigate whether automatic speech analysis could be used for characterization and detection of apathy.

Methods: A group of apathetic and non-apathetic patients (n = 60) with mild to moderate neurocognitive disorder were recorded while performing two short narrative speech tasks. Paralinguistic markers relating to prosodic, formant, source, and temporal qualities of speech were automatically extracted, examined between the groups and compared to baseline assessments. Machine learning experiments were carried out to validate the diagnostic power of extracted markers.

Results: Correlations between apathy sub-scales and features revealed a relation between temporal aspects of speech and the subdomains of reduction in interest and initiative, as well as between prosody features and the affective domain. Group differences were found to vary for males and females, depending on the task. Differences in temporal aspects of speech were found to be the most consistent difference between apathetic and non-apathetic patients. Machine learning models trained on speech features achieved top performances of AUC = 0.88 for males and AUC = 0.77 for females.

Conclusions: These findings reinforce the usability of speech as a reliable biomarker in the detection and assessment of apathy.
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September 2020

A survey on the prevalence of apathy in elderly people referred to specialized memory centers.

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 2019 10 8;34(10):1369-1377. Epub 2019 May 8.

Université Côte d'Azur, CoBTeK lab, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice, CMRR, Nice, France.

Background: Apathy is a pervasive neuropsychiatric syndrome in people with neurocognitive and psychiatric disorders. The diagnostic criteria for apathy (DCA) have been revised in 2018.

Objectives: Employing the 2018 DCA, in the present study, we investigated in groups of elderly subjects suffering from different neuropsychiatric disorders (a) the apathy prevalence; (b) the most commonly affected apathy dimensions (behavior/cognition, emotion, and social interaction); (c) the sensitivity and specificity of those dimensions for apathy diagnosis; and (d) the concurrent validity of 2018 DCA compared with the 2009 DCA.

Methods: This multicenter survey included 166 subjects. Each center checked the presence of apathy in subjects belonging to the following DSM-5 diagnoses: mild neurocognitive disorders (mild NCDs); major NCDs; affective disorders (Aff D); and subjective cognitive decline (SCD).

Results: The frequency of apathy varied significantly based on the diagnostic groups (0% of subjects with apathy in the SCD group; 25% in the mild NCD group; 77% in the major NCD group; and 57% in the Aff. D group). All subjects with apathy fulfilled the criteria for the behavior/cognition dimension, 73.1% fulfilled the criteria for the emotion dimension, and 97.4% fulfilled the criteria for the social interaction dimension. Behavior/cognition showed the highest sensitivity, the copresence of emotion and social interaction the highest specificity. The concordance between the 2009 and the 2018 DCA indicated an almost perfect agreement.

Conclusions: These results are consistent with previous reports and confirm that the social interaction dimension added to the 2018 DCA is present in most of subjects with apathy referred to specialized memory centers.
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October 2019