A tablet application designed to quantitatively evaluate neuromuscular function is being developed.

The Wyss Institute at Harvard and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have collaborated.

They are developing the application in which the patient uses a stylus to trace a specific pattern on the screen.


The first clinical study has been published in the Journal of Gerontology: Series A: Biological Science and Medical Sciences. The study tested the ability of 150 participants (age 21 to 95 years old) to follow a moving target around a circle using a stylus with each hand as well as the Trail Making Test.

In the Trail Making Test, the participant connects a series of ordered dots in the fastest time possible. The purpose is to investigate the effects of healthy aging, sex, and handedness.

The application used deviations from the circle to calculate absolute mean, variance, and complexity index. The latter being a “proposed measure for system functionality and adaptability.” It also calculated the percentage of task time within the target region and the cumulative micropause duration (to assess continuity of motion).

All measures showed significant effects of aging and relationships to the Trail Making Test. Comparison between dominant and non-dominant hands only showed a significant difference in the complexity index.

The next step in the research is to see whether the application can quantitatively assess neuromuscular conditions. To date, these conditions are measured subjectively and qualitatively. If the research shows that it can, there is a wide range of potential applications for the device.

Due to the fact that it is portable and quick, the device can be used on the sidelines of sporting events, in physicians’ offices, and in the field with emergency medical services or military medics to name just a few.

Sources: Journals of Gerontology, Nature protocols, Wyss Institute