If you thought that heart disease or cancer might be the leading causes of death in England and Wales, you'd be wrong. Dementia has become the leading cause of death and accounted for 12.8% of all deaths in the UK in 2018. It is the biggest health crisis in the UK and has huge financial implications: NHS England and Dementia UK have estimated that the cost associated with the disease is a staggering £23bn per year1. Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe symptoms that occur when the brain cells stop working. This happens when cells die or blood flow in the brain is restricted.
A £2.7 million project aimed at transforming life for people living alone with dementia, is to be trialled in Cambridgeshire by Anglia Ruskin University music therapists. They will use artificial intelligence to adapt and personalise live radio to try and address the key causes of hospital admission for those suffering from dementia. Radio Me will tackle issues such as agitation and failing to take medication correctly and as a result, it is hoped quality of life will improve with people able to remain living independently at home for longer. Jörg Fachner, professor of music, Health and the brain at ARU, said: "Our role is to investigate precisely how people with dementia can benefit from this interactive radio experience. "Music therapists at ARU and partner organisations will use biomarker responses to fine-tune playlists in order to deliver emotional and cognitive stimulation, and evaluate exactly how interactive music interventions, using AI, can benefit people with dementia in their own homes and in assisted living environments." Professor Eduardo Miranda, from the University of Plymouth, added: "Radio Me builds on research carried out as part of our previous EPSRC-funded project into a brain computer music interface, as well as our work on artificial intelligence, music influencing emotion, and the University's long-running involvement in shaping national policy on dementia.
Patients may one day be diagnosed by computers, not doctors, according to health secretary Jeremy Hunt. Mr Hunt said: 'So what might medicine look like when the NHS is 80 [in 2028]? Well, the first thing is we may well not be going to doctors for a diagnosis, we might be going to computers instead'. Artificial intelligence could help in diagnosing patients by analysing X-rays and samples to determine conditions such as cancer, according to NHS England bosses. In as little as a decade's time, patients may even be diagnosed with disorders before they develop symptoms as DNA screening is set to become accessible to the masses, Mr Hunt said.
Smart bottles that dispense the correct dose of medication at the correct time, digital assistants, and chairs that know how long you've sat in them are among the devices set to change the face of care for those living with dementia. Dementia is now the leading cause of death in England and Wales, and is thought to affect more than 850,000 people in the UK. But a new wave of connected devices, dubbed "the internet of things", could offer new ways to help people live independently for longer. "We have got an elderly population, and children in their 40s and 50s are looking after their elderly parents – and they may not have the capabilities to coordinate that care effectively," said Idris Jahn, head of health and data at IoTUK, a programme within the government-backed Digital Catapult. While phone calls and text messages help to keep people in touch, says Jahn, problems can still arise, from missed appointments to difficulties in taking medication correctly.
A mobile phone game that tests spatial navigation skills and has been played by 2.4 million people, has become the largest dementia study in history and raised hopes of a breakthrough in diagnosing the disease. Sea Hero Quest, a collaboration between Alzheimer's Research UK, Deutsche Telekom, game designers Glitchers and scientists, has generated the equivalent of 9,400 years of lab-based research since its launch in May. Experts hope to use the data to create the world's first global benchmark for spatial navigation, one of the first abilities affected by dementia, and to develop the game into an early diagnostic test for the disease, which is the leading cause of death in England and Wales. Dr Hugo Spiers, of University College London, who presented the preliminary findings at the Neuroscience 2016 conference in San Diego, said: "This is the only study of its kind, on this scale, to date. Its accuracy greatly exceeds that of all previous research in this area.