Prof. Matthew Rizzo

Dr. Matthew Rizzo
University of Nebraska, US
Digital Biomarkers and the Brain-in-the-Wild

This talk underscores bidirectional links between real-world driving behavior in health and disease, along with promising evidence-based measures and effective configurations of sensor technologies for recovering health-relevant data from human behavior and the “brain-in-the wild”. Our research teams use human factors/ergonomics, ethology, systems thinking, and novel tools to synchronize sensor signals and glean digital biomarkers from continuous decades of big, real-world data from a person’s own environment–at home, at work, at play, and in transit– to answer fundamental questions translatable to clinical research and practice. Our work, supported by the US NIH and industry, underscores the most promising evidence-based measures and effective configurations of sensor technologies for recovering health-relevant data in the real world. We have extended this data collection to automobile driving, in line with the NIH “All of Us” efforts to collect prospective data from up to a million people in the field. In our work, a person’s own car and ubiquitous personal sensors capture a wide variety of health data, paving the way for egalitarian access to healthcare diagnostics outside the traditional confines of a hospital, clinic or workplace. The results can then be confidentially shared with medical practitioners and researchers through the electronic medical record to address a range of medical disorders such as diabetes and arthritis, visual and mental disorders, aging, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases –that affect perception, attention, cognition, sleep, mobility, and mood, the fundamental quotidian determinants of human behavior. These efforts require innovative multidisciplinary team science, novel sensor-technologies, experimental designs, bioinformatics, analytic approaches to observational data, computer vision and machine learning tools, and close attention to personal privacy rules and ethics. This approach may also meet urgent societal  needs, as expressed by the US NIH and FDA, to track post-acute sequelae of the SARS-CoV-2/ COVID-19 pandemic and to track the efficacy of drugs, biological agents and devices in the real world. Ongoing developments underscore the promise of public and private investment in neuroscience research – and the need for federal regulators to be prepared to address unique technologies and diagnostic modalities as they continue to emerge.

Dr. Matthew Rizzo is Chair of the Department of Neurological Sciences, Chief Physician for Neurological Services, Director of the Mind & Brain Health Initiative at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Director of the US National Institutes of Health funded Great Plains IDeA Clinical and Translational Research network. Dr. Rizzo has mentored many faculty and students who have established successful careers in science and medicine. Relevant service includes the US National Academy of Sciences Board on Human-Systems Integration, US FDA Panel for PNS and CNS Drugs, FMCSA Medical Advisory Committee (appointed by US Secretary of Transportation), and Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Brain Coalition. Dr. Rizzo has advised the US Army, AAN, AMA, and several US and international states on translational neuroscience and neuroegonomics research and evidence-based strategies for evaluating and supporting vulnerable operators. He has led efforts to improve and disseminate better simulation tools and practices and has helped pioneer successive generations of tools for naturalistic behavioral research in aging, cognitive impairments, and medical disorders in at-risk individuals. His team’s advancements in quantifying driver behavior from in-vehicle systems (“Black Boxes”) and wearable sensors, and strategic analytic pipelines using statistical and machine learning approaches, are directly relevant to meeting this challenge. A current focus of this silo-spanning “brain-in the wild” work is using sensors in a person’s own vehicle and devices as a passive-detection system for flagging age- and disease-related aberrant behavior and physiology (“digital biomarkers”) that may signal early warning signs of functional decline or incipient disease, such as Alzheimer’s. Passive monitoring of real-world physiology and behavior to predict clinical status in the moment, progression over time, and response to treatment, promotes global goals for early treatment and timely interventions to prevent disease progression in preclinical stages, and advance broader community access to healthcare.