App unlocking benefits of music therapy, wearable tech and AI for dementia awarded $2m grant
An app that unlocks the therapeutic potential of music for people living with dementia across Australia will receive $2 million ($1.3m USD) in grant funding and support from Google’s philanthropic arm, to develop wearable sensors and AI-enabled music adaptive systems and undertake a pilot in Australia.
MATCH (Music Attuned Technology - Care via eHealth) is an adaptive, music-based tool that aims to address a common challenge for people with dementia - agitation that can occur when emotional and physical needs go unmet – by detecting early signs of agitation behaviors and providing music-based interventions to regulate mood and reduce the likelihood of developing, or severity of challenging behaviors.
55 million people live with dementia globally, with 90 per cent of them displaying agitation, a challenging symptom that can lead to physical and verbal aggression, distress to families and professional carers, and most importantly, poorer quality of life for the person with dementia.
University of Melbourne Professor Felicity Baker, principal investigator of the MATCH project, said the app has the potential to provide a practical and personalised tool to support dementia patients globally.
“Many carers of people with dementia recognise music’s value in supporting the wellbeing of a loved one. We are working to create a better everyday life for people living with dementia, their families, and carers on the dementia journey using the proven therapeutic benefits of music, alongside wearable sensors and AI,” Professor Baker said.
The Australian Government’s Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommended every Australian aged care provider provide access to music and art therapy for people in their care by July 2024. Limitations on the number of therapists is expected to see this recommendation go unmet.
“Our music attunement intervention has been shown to significantly decrease agitation and reduce care costs, however music therapists, who implement the intervention, are in short supply and often not available when episodes of agitation occur,” Professor Baker said.
“By combining the known therapeutic benefits of the patients’ personally preferred music with wearable sensor technology and AI that creates a bespoke music adaptive system, we will be able to provide early detection and treatment of agitation.”
The MATCH app AI system will learn each person’s own unique agitation behaviours and positive music interventions, through an improving cycle of detection and interpretation making use of wearable sensors, observation, analysis, and music treatment. The person with dementia’s preferred music will adapt to synchronise and treat their agitation.
“Even the smallest change in agitation reduces care costs per person, and will reduce the need to use pharmacological interventions that can increase confusion and have other side effects,” Professor Baker said.
“Our app will overcome access and equity barriers by providing support to people with dementia whenever and wherever it is needed.”
The MATCH project has two components - a training package app for caregivers with curated lists of music to enable targeted music interventions to support care, of which a prototype app has already been developed, and the music-adaptive system being developed with funding from Google.org.
Professor Baker said: “The music-adaptive system will be integrated within this app. We are looking for residential aged care homes, and people living with dementia at home, to come forward and be involved in testing our app prototype and the development of the music-adaptive system.”
University of Melbourne Professor Lars Kulik, leading the development of the app’s AI and the integration of sensor data, said the grant will see the technology developed and introduced in Australia before being expanded globally.
“We will be able to develop a device, similar to a smartwatch, that can monitor movement, heartrate and other biomarkers. Should it detect signs of agitation, the app will play music from a curated playlist designed to soothe and calm them. If the initial music choice isn’t effective, it will continue to change tracks until the person’s state stabilizes,” Professor Kulik said.
“While developing the technology, we will also have access to Google’s knowledge, expertise, and data technologies that would normally be out of our reach.”
Google.org’s AI for the Global Goals Impact Challenge supports organisations through the $25 million philanthropy challenge for projects that use artificial intelligence (AI) to accelerate progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The University of Melbourne is the only Australian organisation receiving support through Google.org’s $25 million philanthropy challenge for projects that use artificial intelligence (AI) to accelerate progress towards these goals. Out of many submitted proposals, 15 were selected for funding. All the projects will be open-sourced, so other organizations can build upon the work.
Google SVP of Research James Manyika said: “Each of the 15 selected organisations share our vision for using AI to accelerate progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and each organisation brings their own expertise to help move the needle,”
“We are inspired by the possibilities they see for how AI can be harnessed to help people solve societal problems, and are excited about the collective impact they will have over the next three years.”
More information on the MATCH app project can be found here.