Speech-based technology that can help diagnose concussions was named the grand prize winner in the University of Notre Dame’s 13th annual McCloskey Business Plan Competition.
The Contect technology was selected from among six finalists for the $25,000 prize. Its developers, Patrick Flynn and Christian Poellabauer, are members of the university’s computer science faculty.
Contect analyzes an individual’s voice for evidence of concussion or traumatic brain injury, such as indistinct consonants and distorted vowels. The assessment can be administered via tablet computer.
The technology, which was tested on participants in student boxing tournaments, is seen as having particular potential in diagnosing concussions among athletes and military personnel. Flynn and Poellabauer estimate that about 90% of concussions are undetected.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) account for up to 3.8 million sports injuries annually, with about 300,000 diagnosed in young, nonprofessional athletes.
Additionally, a study published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry in May 2013 found that military personnel who had suffered multiple TBIs were at greater risk for committing suicide.
Brain injuries can produce numerous symptoms, including memory loss, diminished cognitive functioning, headaches and depression. Diagnosing such injuries has typically required the use of MRIs, X-rays or CT scans. The Contect technology offers greater portability and lower costs compared with more traditional diagnostic tools.
“This project is a great example of how mobile computing and sensing technologies can transform healthcare,” Poellabauer told Notre Dame News in March 2013.
The 2013 McCloskey Business Plan Competition, which was sponsored by the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, drew a record field of entrants. Nearly 150 student and alumni teams submitted business proposals for the contest, which targets ventures that are in the planning or initial launch phase. Teams must include at least one Notre Dame faculty member, alumni or student, either an undergraduate or graduate.
About $300,000 in cash and in-kind prizes was awarded this year. In addition to the grand prize winner, the $15,000 Klau Family Prize for Greatest Social Impact went to Green Bridge Growers. The sustainable farming operation in South Bend, Indiana, provides jobs for young adults with autism.
“We are so very pleased with the exceptional quality and diversity which was evident within our participants this year,” Karen Slaggert, the Gigot Center’s associate director, told Notre Dame News.