February 25, 2024

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Indonesia: NeuroCube Transforming Student Mental Health

The issue of mental health among university students has been gaining increasing attention in recent years. The demanding nature of academic life, coupled with various personal, social, and economic pressures, has contributed to a growing concern for the well-being of students.

Image credits: its.ac.id

One of the primary challenges is the high level of stress associated with academic expectations. The pressure to excel in exams, complete assignments, and maintain a competitive GPA can lead to heightened stress among students. Additionally, the transition from high school to university often involves adapting to a new environment, building new social connections and managing increased independence can further contribute to feelings of anxiety and isolation.

A team of students from Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember (ITS) has unveiled NeuroCube. It is a Rapid Diagnostic Microfluidic Biosensor detection tool that blends cutting-edge technology to address the diagnosis of neurological disorders. This innovative Rapid Diagnostic Microfluidic Biosensor detection tool combines advanced technology to detect neurological disorders within the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Annisa Septyana Ningrum ST, the head of the student team from the ITS Physics Engineering Department Master’s study programme, shared that the inspiration for NeuroCube stemmed from the rising cases of mental disorders among students. Recognising the complexity of diagnosing mental illnesses and the potential for patients to provide inaccurate information during psychological assessments, the team set out to create a tool that could provide more accurate and reliable results.

The biosensor takes inspiration from the concept of litmus paper, which changes colour when exposed to acids or bases. Ne roCube applies this concept to neurotransmitter compounds in urine samples, such as dopamine, glutamate, and Nicotinamide Adenosine Dinucleotide Hydrogen (NADH). The colour changes in the samples indicate the concentration levels of compounds associated with six neurological disorders, including dementia, obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s.

The five-person development team successfully integrated four key components – microfluidic biosensor paper, Raspberry Pi miniprocessor, Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) touchscreen, and LED lights – into the NeuroCube. This tool employs colourimetry, allowing for detecting neurological disorders through a simple and efficient method.

The microfluidic biosensor paper indicates colour changes when exposed to neurotransmitter compounds and a reagent. The Rasberry Pi miniprocessor is a central processing unit (CPU) that captures images through a connected camera. These images undergo processing through a programmed algorithm, converting the reaction’s colour into compound concentration. Machine learning then utilises this data to determine the percentage risk of a person developing neurological disorders.

The LED light component controls the camera’s light intensity. NeuroCube is equipped with an LCD touchscreen for an intuitive Graphical User Interface (GUI) to facilitate the entire process of compound detection and prediction of neurological disorders.

Annisa emphasised the added value of this innovation, highlighting its potential to use biosensors and machine learning technology for disease risk detection. She expressed optimism about NeuroCube’s ability to provide further analysis and expand its application to detect various diseases beyond neurological disorders.

This breakthrough earned the team a well-deserved gold medal in the National Student Scientific Week (Pimnas) presentation category within the Student Creativity Programme for Creative Work (PKM-KC). Dr Rer Nat Ruri Agung Wahyuono, the team’s supervisor, was crucial in guiding the students through this achievement.

In the future, Annisa and her team aspire to continue developing NeuroCube, envisioning it as a multiplex detection tool capable of identifying multiple diseases simultaneously. They envisioned that the awareness of this biosensor’s potential would increase, especially among the younger generation in Indonesian society. The success of NeuroCube stands as a testament to the power of combining technology, innovation, and a commitment to improving healthcare outcomes.


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