Artificial intelligence could spot the early signs of dementia from a simple brain scan long before major symptoms appear – and in some cases before any symptoms appear – say Cambridge researchers. Dementias are characterized by the build-up of different types of protein in the brain, which damages brain tissue and leads to cognitive decline. In the case of Alzheimer's disease, these proteins include beta-amyloid, which forms'plaques', clumping together between neurons and affecting their function, and tau, which accumulates inside neurons. Molecular and cellular changes to the brain usually begin many years before any symptoms occur. Diagnosing dementia can take many months or even years.
Artificial intelligence has been employed in the fight against dementia by scientists who say it can diagnose the condition from a single scan of the brain. Currently in pre-clinical trials, the system has been able to diagnose dementia years before the first symptoms develop, even with no signs of damage on the scan. It currently takes multiple scans and tests to diagnose dementia, and by the time they are complete it may be too late to enact some of the remedies that can offset the condition, researchers from the Alan Turing Institute in Cambridge explained. The new system compares brain scans of those worried they might have dementia with scans from thousands of dementia patients to identify patterns. Being able to diagnose the condition early, even before any signs are visible on scans, will allow for lifestyle and medical interventions to delay the onset, according to the team.
Researchers at Cambridge University in the UK are trialling an artificial intelligence system that they think could spot the signs of dementia after a single brain scan. The team – led by Prof Zoe Kourtzi of the university and Alan Turing Institute – told the BBC that the AI could make it possible to start treatment earlier to slow down progression of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. The technology could be used to spot patients who are likely to have a slow decline in cognition and memory, and those that could have more rapid progression. At the moment, it can take several brain scans and a battery of other cognitive tests to diagnose dementia, a process that can take between four and 12 weeks depending on waiting lists, according to the Alzheimer's Society. The AI has been trained using thousands of brain scans from patients with dementia patients, and uses an algorithm to identify patterns that even expert neurologists cannot see, according to the BBC report.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has undoubtedly been a growing presence in the healthcare industry, shaving years and billions of pounds off drug development programmes, accurately predicting A&E influxes, and even detecting early signs of disease in patients years before it was thought possible. The field of neuroscience has been no exception to this wave of technological innovation, with exciting developments cropping up in recent months and years that could potentially revolutionise diagnoses, treatments, and outcomes for patients on a global scale. The term AI covers a field of computer science that is focused upon the simulation of human intelligence and computational processes. However, there are several subfields of AI technology currently being explored in neuroscience, including machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL). AI covers all programming systems that can perform tasks which usually require human intelligence.
It's been used to detect eye diseases, make medical diagnoses, and spot early signs of oesophageal cancer. Now it has been claimed artificial intelligence may be able to diagnose dementia from just one brain scan, with researchers starting a trial to test the approach. The team behind the AI tool say the hope is that it will lead to earlier diagnoses, which could improve outcomes for patients, while it may also help to shed light on their prognoses. Dr Timothy Rittman, a senior clinical research associate and consultant neurologist at the University of Cambridge, who is leading the study, told the BBC the AI system is a "fantastic development". "These set of diseases are really devastating for people," he said. "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."