How your driving might reveal early signs of Alzheimer’s

Bayat, S., et al| 2021 | GPS driving: a digital biomarker for preclinical Alzheimer disease| Alz Res Therapy| 13 | 115. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13195-021-00852-1

A study of drivers over the age 65 tracked them using GPS to investigate the driving performance and driving space of older adults with and without preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease (AD ) . From the GPS tracking the researchers the top five most important features consisted of two features describing driving performance (average jerk and over speeding) and three features describing driving space (total number of night trips, radius of gyration, and number of trips shorter than 1 mile.) The researchers’ findings suggest that driving may serve as an effective and accurate digital biomarker for identifying preclinical AD among older adults

Abstract

Background

Alzheimer disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia. Preclinical AD is the period during which early AD brain changes are present but cognitive symptoms have not yet manifest. The presence of AD brain changes can be ascertained by molecular biomarkers obtained via imaging and lumbar puncture. However, the use of these methods is limited by cost, acceptability, and availability. The preclinical stage of AD may have a subtle functional signature, which can impact complex behaviours such as driving. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the ability of in-vehicle GPS data loggers to distinguish cognitively normal older drivers with preclinical AD from those without preclinical AD using machine learning methods.

Methods

We followed naturalistic driving in cognitively normal older drivers for 1 year with a commercial in-vehicle GPS data logger. The cohort included n equal to 64 individuals with and n equal to 75 without preclinical AD, as determined by cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers. Four Random Forest (RF) models were trained to detect preclinical AD. RF Gini index was used to identify the strongest predictors of preclinical AD.

Results

The F1 score of the RF models for identifying preclinical AD was 0.85 using APOE ε4 status and age only, 0.82 using GPS-based driving indicators only, 0.88 using age and driving indicators, and 0.91 using age, APOE ε4 status, and driving. The area under the receiver operating curve for the final model was 0.96.

Conclusion

The findings suggest that GPS driving may serve as an effective and accurate digital biomarker for identifying preclinical AD among older adults.

GPS driving: a digital biomarker for preclinical Alzheimer disease [primary paper]

BBC News also highlight these research findings in the article: How your driving might reveal early signs of Alzheimer’s