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A mother—and a computer—can differentiate a baby’s cry

Professor develops a machine learning algorithm
Tuesday, January 24, 2017

S. Berlin Brahnam in her home office.As you ask a hologram in an airport for directions, chat with a bot on a computer, or even ask Siri for your schedule, there’s no denying technology is changing the world. Dr. S. Brahnam is at the forefront of some of these developments.

Brahnam, a professor of computer information systems at Missouri State University, has multiple interests in the field of technology. She collaborates on many of these projects with Dr. Loris Nanni from the Università di Bologna in Italy – a collaborator she has never met face-to-face.

The learning algorithm

One of her many research projects was to develop the machine learning algorithm called the Infant Classification of Pain Expressions. ICOPE was designed to recognize distressed facial expressions in neonatal babies, and it was the first of its kind. Infants at Mercy hospital were photographed while they were experiencing a number of benign nonpain stressors and an acute pain stimulus (the heel lance needed for the state-mandated blood exam).

“Are they in pain or not? You can’t tell because they cry all the time,” said Brahnam, laughing. Furrowed brows and certain mouth or eye shapes can be tell-tale signs, but this system helps to identify pain even if nurses are busy or face blind.

Now she’s preparing to look deeper with the use of video equipment which will not only see the expressions but will measure heart rate, respiration rate or even changes in pixel colors to enhance the ability to classify pain expressions.

Learn more about Brahnam’s research on Mind’s Eye.

For more information, contact Brahnam at 417-836-4932.


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