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Neuralert: How a Vanderbilt Professor’s Invention May Save Millions of Lives

Eric Sha | March 20, 2023

Every 40 seconds, a person in the U.S. has a stroke, and every 3.5 minutes somebody dies from a stroke.  However, most strokes are undetected for over four hours.  For stroke victims, every second is crucial for minimizing adverse effects and saving their lives.  Dr. James Weimer, assistant professor of computer science at Vanderbilt, seeks to address this problem through Neuralert, a device that can detect strokes.  This device was selected as one of TIME’s “Best Inventions of 2022” and was named by the FDA as a Breakthrough Device.  

How does it work?

Neuralert, invented by Vanderbilt’s Dr. James Weimer and Dr. Steve Messe at University of Pennsylvania, is a lightweight, noninvasive wristband device that can automate stroke detection and altering.  Neuralert works by detecting the onset of asymmetrical arm movement, a hallmark indicator of strokes, in as little as 15 minutes, even if the wearer is asleep.  Asymmetrical arm movement is weakness, neglect, or less movement on one side.  Because asymmetry is very common in everyday life, previous attempts at stroke detection have failed due to too many false positives. The algorithm of Neuralert can also mathematically model out other causes of asymmetrical arm movement such as hand dominance, eating, or talking on the phone to only detect strokes.  Neuralert has been in development for 10 years and has been tested in over 400 patients.  Upon detection, Neuralert’s software automatically alerts medical authorities so that they can initiate potentially life-saving treatments.  Neuralert has been shown to detect 65% of strokes within 30 minutes, and up to 94% within 80 minutes, which is far faster than the median response time. 

Early detection of a stroke helps the patient receive potentially life-saving treatments

Recognition and Future Work 

Dr. James Weimer’s Neuralert and Dr. James Crowe’s Evusheld were the two Vanderbilt faculty members who received the distinction of “Best Invention of 2022” from TIME magazine.  “These inventions, resulting from the groundbreaking research of Dr. Crowe and Dr. Weimer, represent the unique, trans-institutional approach to discovery that is a hallmark of Vanderbilt.  As we celebrate these achievements, it is fitting to reflect on the many lives being impacted by this research,” said Dr. Jeff Balser, President and CEO for Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.  

In the future, Neuralert will be widely available, hopefully for anyone at high risk for a stroke.  Dr. Weimer’s current research at the Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering focuses on developing technology that collects the right data to provide actionable feedback to clinicians and adapting the algorithm used in Neuralert for extended use in community care and personal use settings.  The distinction from TIME serves as recognition of the game-changing impact that Neuralert has, and Dr. Weimer’s future research aims to save and benefit many more lives.  

Works Cited

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021 May 25. Stroke Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How It Works – Neuralert. 2022 Dec 6. [accessed 2023 Feb 13].

Kaufmann R. 2005 Oct 25. English: Belle Chasse, LA, October 25, 2005 – This is the main patient area inside of the Mobile Medical Unit being operated in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. This configuration is an emergency department with minor surgery capability. Robert Kaufmann/FEMA. Wikimedia Commons. [accessed 2023 Feb 13].

Neuralert | Acceleration Lab. accelerationlabupennedu. [accessed 2023 Feb 13].

News. wwwneuralerttechnologiescom. [accessed 2023 Feb 13].

Technology of Stroke Detection. wwwneuralerttechnologiescom. [accessed 2023 Feb 13].