Artificial intelligence to detect dementia soon

Ongoing research reveals that artificial intelligence will soon be used to diagnose dementia in one brain scan.

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Scientists are testing an artificial-intelligence system thought to be capable of diagnosing dementia after a single brain scan. It may also be able to predict whether the condition will remain stable for many years, slowly deteriorate or need immediate treatment.

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Currently, it can take several scans and tests to diagnose dementia. The researchers involved say earlier diagnoses with their system could greatly improve patient outcomes.

Identify patterns

Prof Zoe Kourtzi, of Cambridge University and a fellow of national centre for AI and data science at The Alan Turing Institute, said:

If we intervene early, the treatments can kick in early and slow down the progression of the disease and at the same time avoid more damage.
And it's likely that symptoms occur much later in life or may never occur.

Prof Kourtzi's system compares brain scans of those worried they might have dementia with those of thousands of dementia patients and their relevant medical records.

The algorithm can identify patterns in the scans even expert neurologists cannot see and match them to patient outcomes in its database.

Memory clinics

In pre-clinical tests, it has been able to diagnose dementia, years before symptoms develop, even when there is no obvious signs of damage on the brain scan. The trial, at Addenbrooke's Hospital and other memory clinics around the country, will test whether it works in a clinical setting, alongside conventional ways of diagnosing dementia.

In the first year, about 500 patients are expected to participate. Their results will go to their doctors, who can, if necessary, advise on the course of treatment.

Consultant neurologist Dr Tim Rittman, who is leading the study, with neuroscientists at Cambridge University, called the artificial-intelligence system a 'fantastic development.'

He said:

These set of diseases are really devastating for people.
So when I am delivering this information to a patient, anything I can do to be more confident about the diagnosis, to give them more information about the likely progression of the disease to help them plan their lives is a great thing to be able to do.

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