Democratizing Brain Health with Digital Assessments

Podcast, Videos


Dr. Pam Ventola, Senior Science Director at Cogstate, sat down with me to share how Cogstate is working to optimize brain health assessments in rare disease and pediatric clinical trials and how this can help advance the development of new medicines and enable earlier clinical insights. She also discussed cognitive testing as part of decentralized trials, the role of central rating and central scoring, and the development of indication-specific COAs for rare disease trials, and much more.

Here is a sneak peek of our conversation:

Q: What attracted you to that company (Cogstate) and what specifically are they doing in general around mental conditions and the use of technology.

A: What attracted me there was really the innovation and the scientific rigor. I really enjoy working with a variety of different pharmaceutical sponsors across a variety of related but different indications. And, helping them problem solve situations and trials that are novel and groundbreaking and no one has ever done them before. Because these rare diseases, there might be just a couple of hundred people in the world that has this indication so we’re kind of figuring it out as we go along. It’s really challenging and interesting.

Cogstate also involves our technology, so we have computerized-based assessments to measure different aspects of cognition. In my field, these can be used sometimes. We need somewhat higher functioning individuals who can understand the task demands. In rare diseases, that’s some of our indications. Some of our indications, individuals are too impaired and we need to do other kinds of things to assess them. But with the computerized testing, it is widely relevant. We have tests measuring constructs such as speed of processing, attention, memory, and they are very sensitive measures. They can be done in the home; they can be done in the clinic; and most importantly, they’re culturally neutral and do not need a professional to administer them.

Unlike some of our complex neuropsychological assessments, where you need a licensed psychologist to do them, these computerized assessments can be done by anyone. We look at our research assistants or study coordinators, some trials of home-based nursing so that person can help and even a study partner, so as a spouse, a caregiver can administer them as well.

For more of our discussion, you can watch the whole Fireside Chat with Dr. Pam Ventola, or listen to the podcast version, below.

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