NTT, Japan’s National Center for Neurology and Psychiatry building brain digital twin tech

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The National Center for Neurology and Psychiatry in Japan has partnered with NTT Corporation to develop a brain bio-digital twin technology to detect and prevent mental illnesses.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

A platform for processing digital twins, which is targeted to be built next year, will collect various data types from medical exams provided by NCNP. The NCNP is currently building a library of data on mental and nervous system diseases, which includes PET and bio-samples that are useful for analysing cranial nerve diseases. 

The digital library will be later used to create detailed maps and biological models powered by NTT’s AI and ML processing technology.

WHY IT MATTERS

Currently, about five million people in Japan are known to be receiving treatment for mental and behavioural disorders. This number, which does not include undiagnosed cases, is seen going on an uptrend trajectory. A previous government study in Japan, for example, estimated that by 2025, around 6.75 million people over the age of 65 in the country will have dementia. 

Despite this, Japan remains ill-equipped to tackle this rising crisis as it lacks systematic methods of treatment and comprehensive testing, according to NTT. The NCNP is now trying to fill these gaps through the use of digital twin technology. 

With digital twins, patients can do away with the physical and mental burden of invasive and complex testing and their costs. 

It is also expected that the technology will enable the prediction of risks and the early detection and prevention of diseases. NTT and NCNP intend to cooperate with pharmaceutical regulators in developing new therapeutic medicines. They aim to create a practical system for the early detection and prevention of diseases, which includes the ability to predict an individual’s risk for severe side effects of taking medications. 

THE LARGER TREND

NTT first proposed the digital twin project to the NCNP in 2020. The technology was intended for mapping a person’s brain, body, and psychology to understand their present state of physical and mental well-being. 

Late last year, NTT also tied up with Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to advance cardiac care through cardiovascular bio-digital twins.

Most industry experts and futurists anticipate the broad adoption of digital twins in healthcare “within the next six years,” a recent TATA Consultancy Service survey has found.

Elsewhere in Asia-Pacific, Singapore is also using digital twin technology in healthcare. Aside from predicting and monitoring disease outbreaks, the technology is now being tested by SingHealth for resource optimisation and healthcare facilities planning.

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