GradImpact: Taking a Multidisciplinary Approach to Better Understand Neurodevelopmental Disorders

    As a doctoral student in biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Arezoo Movaghar’s research spans multiple disciplines. Her master’s degree in computer science and artificial intelligence combined with her interest in medicine has led her to a unique research project with UW-Madison faculty in biomedical engineering, social work, biostatistics and medical informatics, and communication sciences and disorders, all affiliated with the Waisman Center. Their goal was to help identify people who carry a particular gene premutation that correlates to a higher risk for neurodegenerative disorders, infertility, and having a child with a disability; they wanted to achieve this in an “easier, more-cost effective way.”


    Rather than reliance on traditional genetic testing to identify a gene premutation, Movaghar used her experience in artificial intelligence. “By using machine learning we were able to develop a method to identify premutation carriers – based on just five minutes of speech – with high accuracy,” Movaghar said. It turns out that carriers of this particular gene premutation (fragile X) have increased speech impairment. By using a computer to analyze speech patterns from a recording, researchers can identify those most likely to carry the premutation. Genetic testing is still necessary for confirmation, but beginning with speech analysis will reduce the number tests.


    The research team plans to develop a mobile app to streamline data collection and remove barriers. “Incorporating mobile devices into the research provides exciting opportunities,” Movaghar said. “We can scale up our research beyond geographical boundaries, track and monitor participants, and optimize the use of clinical resources.” To learn more about Arezoo’s work visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison website.


    Visit the GradImpact Feature Gallery to learn more about the amazing, innovative research being done by graduate students and alumni across the world.


    Photo Credit: UW-Madison


    The CGS GRADIMPACT project draws from member examples to tell the larger story of graduate education. Our goal is to demonstrate the importance of graduate education not only to degree holders, but also to the communities where we live and work. Do you have a great story to share about the impact of master’s or doctoral education? Visit our WEBSITE for more information.


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