April 22, 2019

MIDAS Seminar Series: Alex Leow, MD, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago

Michigan Institute for Data Science Seminar Series

Dr. Alex Leow, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, Bioengineering, and Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, delivered a talk titled "Making Connections: Data Science Approaches to Understanding Mood and Cognition in the Modern Era" on April 5th, 2019, in Ann Arbor as part of the Michigan Institute for Data Science (MIDAS) Seminar Series.

The MIDAS Seminar Series features leading data scientists from around the world and across the University of Michigan campuses addressing a variety of topics germane to the emerging field of data science. These thought leaders are invited from academia, industry and government. The goal is to provide a forum for interactions on themes related to data science among the faculty, scientists, practitioners and students at and around the University of Michigan.

The forum consists of a (typically weekly) seminar where leaders in data science present their vision for the field and highlight new opportunities for collaboration.


(watch the video of this talk at the link above)

Abstract: In this talk, Dr. Leow shared her reflections, as both a computational researcher and a practicing psychiatrist, on the current landscape of psychiatric neuroimaging research and where we go from here.

To this end, she argued that recent advances in data science and information technology will revolutionize the way we conceptualize psychiatric disorders and enable us to objectively quantify their symptomatology, which traditionally has been primarily based on self reports.

To illustrate, she highlighted two lines of ongoing research that apply data science approaches to the assessment of mood and cognition. In the first example, she proposed how EEG connectomics coupled with manifold learning and dimensionality reduction may allow us to measure the ‘speed of thinking’ on a sub-second time scale. In the second example, she introduced her recent joint work with Dr. Melvin McInnis that seeks to unobtrusively turn smartphones into ‘stethoscopes’ of the brain, in real time and in the wild.

Bio: Dr. Alex Leow is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry, Bioengineering, and Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and an attending physician at the University of Illinois Hospital. With Dr. Olu Ajilore, Alex founded the Collaborative Neuroimaging Environment for Connectomics (CoNECt) at UIC. CoNECt is an inter-departmental research team devoted to the study of the human brain using multidisciplinary approaches of brain imaging, non-invasive brain stimulation, Big Data analytics, virtual-reality immersive visualization, and more recently mobile technologies.

Most relevant to this talk, Alex is honored to the project lead of the BiAffect project. BiAffect is the first scientific study that seeks to turn smartphones into "brain fitness trackers," by unobtrusively inferring neuropsychological functioning using entirely passively-collected typing kinematics metadata (i.e., not what you type but how you type it) from a smartphone’s virtual keyboard. The iOS BiAffect study app now powers the first-ever crowd-sourced research study to unobtrusively measure mood and cognition in real-time using iPhones and Apple’s ResearchKit framework.

The CoNECt team’s research has been extensively featured in the news, including more recently in Chicago Tribune, Chicago Tonight, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press news, and the Rolling Stone.