Brandeis Innovation

Revolutionizing Cognitive Testing: The Innovative Journey of Sara Motoyama in Brandeis University


Within Brandeis University's dynamic environment, Brandeis Innovation serves as a hub for creativity and entrepreneurship, empowering students, faculty, and staff. Alongside offering training, mentorship, and pitch competitions, Brandeis Innovation features the "Profiles in Innovation" podcast, spotlighting community members who embody a culture of innovation and impact.

In the latest episode of “Profile in Innovation”, Sara Motoyama, from Tokyo Japan, unveils her journey as a senior at Brandeis majoring in psychology with minors in philosophy and business. She shares how she delves into her extracurricular ventures on being a research assistant at the lifespan lab where she studies healthy aging and dementia risk. She is also working on campus at the library front desk as a Japanese peer tutor and is a research mentor for undergraduates who are looking to get involved in research at Brandeis University.

One of Sara's most captivating endeavors is her involvement in a groundbreaking project since summer 2022. This project focuses on automating the scoring of a cognitive reaction time test, developed by her professor, Dr. Margie Lachman, for the Midlife in the United States study. This unique phone-administered verbal test allows researchers to gather data remotely, boosting efficiency and accuracy (before automation, processing one participant's data took a staggering 45 minutes – a timeframe Sara has remarkably shrunk to a single minute!). Through the power of machine learning models, she has not only maintained this high efficiency but also eliminated the risk of human error by automating the scoring process. 

Working with audio data presented its own set of challenges, but Sara possesses a clear vision for the project's future and is determined to see it through. She envisions this method revolutionizing research for clinicians and researchers alike, making significant advancements in cognitive performance testing and potentially even having clinical applications. This vision extends beyond her senior thesis, as she strives to optimize the user experience of her scoring website.

Another pivotal aspect of Sara's journey is her involvement with Brandeis Innovation's Sprout and I-Corps programs. This program provided Sara and her colleague, Bishal Baral (a fellow Brandeis alumna), with invaluable resources – funding, mentorship, and crucial business insights – to propel their project forward and reach a wider audience.

Similar to many Brandeis students involved in diverse projects, Sara's immediate focus is completing her senior thesis. The results will bolster her product idea development with a foundation in clinical research. Over the next year or so, she looks forward to making significant strides with her scoring website by refining the user experience and integrating new features. Solidifying their minimum viable product (MVP) and continuing to pitch their ideas to programs akin to I-Corps are key next steps.

As Sara stands on the cusp of graduation, her aspiration is to continue developing this innovative scoring method, leaving a legacy that has the potential to impact countless lives. Her work not only embodies the spirit of innovation that Brandeis fosters but also underscores the unwavering dedication required to drive real-world change.

For those inspired by Sara’s story and interested in entrepreneurship or innovation at Brandeis, resources and support are abundant. Whether you’re contemplating a startup or are looking to contribute to existing projects, the Brandeis Innovation Center stands ready to assist. To delve deeper into Sara Motoyama’s project or to explore Brandeis Innovation programs, visit Join the community of innovators and be part of shaping a brighter, smarter future.