CANTOR: Automated Composition of Personal Narratives as an aid for Occupational Therapy based on Reminescence

In the general context of an aging Europe, the problem of memory loss affects a wide range of the population, from people suffering from mild problems to severe cases of dementia induced by Alzheimers disease. Loss of memory constitutes a significant problem for the wellbeing of patients but also an important obstacle for relatives and carers dealing with the patient.

Non-pharmacological approaches to the problem in the field of occupational therapy based on helping patients review their own personal history (life story and reminiscence work) have shown positive results, both as means of keeping memories fresh and as a simple aid for exercising basic cognition, which is known to delay the deterioration of memory. Life story work involves the person with dementia making a personal record of important experiences, people and places in their life. Reminiscence involves encouraging a person with dementia to talk about a period, event or subject from their past. Both have been shown to help to maintain peoples self-esteem, confidence and sense of self, as well as improve social interactions with others. Such procedures often rely on building a memory book of materials that help remember the personal history of the patient (documents, pictures, photo albums).

The CANTOR project proposes the development of an integrated digital tool capable of using Artificial Intelligence technologies both to construct automatically a knowledge base of the life story of a given patient, and to provide multimedia storytelling capabilities to revise particular events in the life of the patient or narrative-threads connecting past events that are still remembered with current events.

The knowledge base of the life story of the patient will be built using a two-pronged approach that combines automated ingestion of documentation provided by relatives or carers (documents, diaries, photos) and informed extraction of knowledge during interviews with patients, relatives and carers. Revision of past events will take place via an interactive narrative interface, capable of dynamically constructing multimedia narratives from the knowledge base in response to specific requests and illustrating them with available visual materials.

The CANTOR project considers a two-stage approach involving an initial stage of technical development of a system for ingesting, storing and re-telling of personal narratives (the PeNSIEVE system, for Personal Narrative Storyteller based on Information Extraction and Visual Elaboration) followed by a subsequent stage of exploration of the applicability of this system as a contribution to efforts on occupational therapy for people suffering from memory loss. Both the development of the system and the exploration of its applicability will be carried out in close collaboration with experts in the field of occupational therapy to ensure that the affordances of the available technologies are best exploited to provide positive results for the stakeholders.