Artificial Intelligence Could Vastly Scale Up Alzheimer's Research

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Researchers at UC Davis and UC San Francisco have found a way to teach a computer to precisely detect one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease in human brain tissue, delivering a proof of concept for a machine-learning approach capable of automating a key component of Alzheimer's research. Amyloid plaques are clumps of protein fragments in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease that destroy nerve cell connections. Much like the way Facebook recognizes faces based on captured images, the machine learning tool developed by a team of University of California scientists can "see" if a sample of brain tissue has one type of amyloid plaque or another -- and do it very quickly. The findings, published May 15, 2019 in Nature Communications, suggest that machine learning can augment the expertise and analysis of an expert neuropathologist. The tool allows them to analyze thousands of times more data and ask new questions that would not be possible with the limited data processing capabilities of even the most highly trained human experts.