AI tool developed to diagnose dementia risk

UK researchers have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system which, it is hoped, could diagnose dementia after a single brain scan.

The AI system may also be able to predict whether the condition will remain stable for many years, slowly deteriorate or need immediate treatment.

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 UK, 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. The results will go to their doctors, who can, if necessary, advise on the course of treatment.

The AI 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 and match them to patient outcomes in its database.

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

“And it’s likely that symptoms occur much later in life or may never occur.”

Consultant neurologist Dr Tim Rittman, who is leading the study, with neuroscientists at Cambridge University, called the AI system a “fantastic development”.

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