Using machine learning for early diagnosis of cerebral palsy

Roopa Harish Thakker is studying toward a Master of Science in Clinical Exercise Physiology.

Roopa Thakker

"After completing a bachelors in physiotherapy at home in India, I decided to further my study with a focus on muscles in the body. I found out about the Clinical Exercise Physiology programme at the School of Exercise Sciences, which includes cardiac function as well as muscles.  As we know, a human body is not only muscle or heart; but they are a fascinating combination.

"My research uses machine learning to help diagnose cerebral palsy (CP) earlier in life. It will help physiotherapists reduce their time when completing their assessments manually.

"I use computer languages(Python) and DeepLabCut to label frames of the video of the babies, which is part of machine-learning — building the data-base for the computer to analyse the videos.

"As a physiotherapist, it is exciting to be able to learn more about how we can use computers to reduce our load. Testing something which can help diagnose CP earlier in life will make quite a lot of difference in the lives of those babies and their families.

"What has surprised me in the course of my research is how impressive computers are - what they can do in a much lesser amount of time compared to what a human will take to complete the same task. It is incredible what different commands can do.

"Learning how to operate python was the biggest challenge, especially with no background in IT. My supervisor, Dr Angus McMorland is very supportive and understanding and he taught me how to work on the different platforms.  

"I hope my research will have a significant impact on the lives of babies who will be diagnosed with CP earlier than usual. It is still sad to know a baby who is just born has something like CP, but on the brighter side, it will help provide early intervention for the babies. 

"Everyday is different, and you get to learn so many things. Studying Exercise Physiology allows me to interact with patients from diverse cultural backgrounds who are coping with different medical conditions and it can provide you with so many ideas for research topics.

"Everyone is so kind and polite here. As an international student I've found everyone to be so accommodating and supportive, including peers, staffs and patients.

"I collaborate with a colleague from the Engineering department who has helped me quite a lot with the technical stuff. 

"One piece of advice I would give to up and coming researchers is, don't forget that your research can change people's lives and make a difference in this world."

Roopa's supervisor is Dr Angus McMorland, Lecturer from the School of Exercise Sciences.