UMD's Varshney and UMB's Shulman Collaborate on Parkinson's Research

Tue Oct 20, 2015

A University of Maryland expert in computer visualization and health informatics is collaborating with a University of Maryland, Baltimore neurologist that specializes in motor systems disorders to better diagnose and treat Parkinson's disease.

Amitabh Varshney, a professor of computer science and director of the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, and Dr. Lisa M. Shulman, a professor of neurology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, will use a process called "visualization assisted clustering" to detect diverse patterns of the neurologic disorder that impacts more than one million people in the U.S.

Their project will use cutting-edge visual data-mining tools to track the progression of motor symptoms associated with the disease, including rigidity, tremors and gait impairment, along with a wide range of non-motor symptoms including cognitive decline, depression and fatigue.

The researchers plan to build a unique, longitudinal, 2000-patient dataset, based on patterns of progression of disease severity and selected symptom clusters. This database could help identify early symptoms of the disease as well as benchmark improvement in patients undergoing therapeutic treatment.

The collaborative project between Varshney and Shulman was one of several Research and Innovation Seed Grants announced last week.

The seed grant program, part of the MPowering the State initiative, is intended to foster collaboration between disciplines and between the University of Maryland College Park and Baltimore campuses. It focuses on projects in areas such as personalized medicine, bioinformatics, bioengineering, complex therapeutics, health care optimization, public health informatics, health information technology, and health science research.

The program has given 59 awards to 132 researchers and clinicians since launching in 2008.