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From ESS to the JDS: Dr Murray Johns’ drowsiness detection technology enters the pharmaceutical industry

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 by Rhonda Locke

Optalert revolutionises pharmaceutical research with in-clinic test for wakefulness.

Richmond, VIC: Optalert is pleased to introduce its latest wakefulness detection technology to the pharmaceutical industry for use during clinical drug trials.

Optalert’s technology enhances clinical testing by offering pharmaceutical researchers an objective, measurable and real-time scale of drowsiness in addition to the alternative wakefulness, common outcomes and/or side effects measured in pharmaceutical drug trials.

A highly sensitive LED camera fitted in Optalert’s glasses tracks eyelid movement, speed and blink frequency at a rate of 500 times per second.

Results are then converted into the Johns Drowsiness Scale (JDS), a 10-point scale (0 = highly alert, 10 = highly drowsy) measuring drowsiness and wakefulness, developed by Optalert founding director and creator of the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), Dr Murray Johns.

Optalert’s technology provides researchers with accurate data measuring drowsiness available in real time or collected for in-depth post-trial analysis.

Drowsiness (often referred to as sleepiness) is both a common side effect and a deliberate outcome of different types of medication, so this capability will prove extremely useful for researchers conducting pharmaceutical and clinical trials.

Using Optalert’s technology and the JDS scale, researchers aiming to measure wakefulness/alertness and drowsiness as an effect of certain clinical drugs now have access to a measurable scale of drowsiness to aid their trials.


The use of Optalert’s technology in measuring drowsiness in scientific testing similar to pharmaceutical/clinical testing has been validated in a 2008 study. Optalert Founding Director Dr Murray Johns partnered with researchers Natalie Michael, Caroline Owen and John Patterson at Swinburne University to conduct a study to assess the impact of caffeine on alertness on well-rested individuals.

For the first time ever, Optalert’s glasses and the JDS scale allowed researchers to successfully identify tiny fluctuations in eye movement to measure drowsiness and show a measurable correlation between caffeine ingestion and alertness.

These findings would not have been possible without Optalert’s technology. You can read more about the study here.

Optalert’s technology and the JDS have also been applied in other numerous scientific and commercial purposes.

Today, industries including mining, transportation and aviation choose Optalert’s drowsiness detection solutions to identify instances of drowsiness among their employees and as a result eliminate the risk of a drowsiness-related accident.

The patented technology has also been used by researchers at the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), Harvard Medical School, and NASA for use in studies requiring objective measures of drowsiness.

For more information on Optalert’s technology contact us today.


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