AstraZeneca Foundation Awards

Athena Demertzi to receive one of the AstraZeneca Foundation Awards

Each year, the AstraZeneca Foundation supports the work of several researchers. In 2020, patient care through artificial intelligence is one of the three disciplines that will be highlighted with new discoveries in viral therapies and the impact of the environment and climate change on health. And Athena Demertzi, Research Associate at Fund for Scientific Research – FNRS, who heads the Cognitive Physiology Laboratory at GIGA-Consciousness, is the winner in this category.

AI to predict the patient's state when they come out of coma

For several years now, researchers at the ULiège and Liège University Hospital (CHU Liège) have been trying to understand the state of unconsciousness in which some patients find themselves after a coma. To achieve this, Athena Demertzi has used artificial intelligence (AI) to decipher the different patterns according to which the brains of these patients are organised: "This research was born from the questioning of families and doctors," explains the researcher. "Families need information about the state of consciousness of their loved ones. We had to find an accessible and inexpensive solution. At the time, functional MRI appeared to be the solution. We put the unconscious patient in this machine for ten minutes and record the data. »

The team analysed data from dozens of patients using algorithms. These algorithms evolved thanks to machine learning. Indeed, the more data they receive, the more they learn. The results thus made it possible to determine the stage of consciousness of these patients: the vegetative state (non-responsive arousal) or that of minimal consciousness, for example. On this basis, Athena Demertzi's team developed classifications. They make it possible to determine the patient's state of consciousness and the cerebral patterns that support the state in which they find themselves. The aim of the researcher: to predict how the person will evolve. Ultimately," she says, "I want to know whether by combining functional MRI and EEG data, we can learn more about the clinical diagnosis. And also about the prognosis: whether someone might wake up from such a condition. »

AstraZeneca Foundation Awards

Since 1993, the AstraZeneca Foundation has been pursuing the goal of bringing science and society closer together and making science available to patients. The winners of the AstraZeneca Foundation Awards are selected independently by a jury from the Fund for Scientific Research – FNRS and the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO).

The themes of the Awards are chosen independently by professors from Belgian universities to help scientists carry out excellent research in areas of major importance for public health.

Since its creation, the AstraZeneca Foundation has already devoted almost €5.3 million to supporting research in Belgium.


Athena Demertzi

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