New AI programme may detect dementia in one day before symptoms even develop

Algorithm is thought capable of recognising early signs of brain damage that even expert neurologists cannot identify

Colin Drury
Tuesday 10 August 2021 12:20
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<p>The algorithm compares what it is seeing with thousands of scans of patients already known to have with the condition</p>

The algorithm compares what it is seeing with thousands of scans of patients already known to have with the condition

An artificial intelligence system potentially capable of diagnosing dementia after a single brain scan is undergoing clinical testing by scientists.

The algorithm compares what it is seeing with thousands of scans of patients already known to have the condition.

Researchers believe the system can then recognise patterns that are too complex for even expert neurologists to detect, allowing those with dementia to be identified years earlier then at present – and even before they display symptoms.

Professor Zoe Kourtzi, the Cambridge University scientist who has created the system, 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.”

In pre-clinical tests, the system has been shown capable of diagnosing dementia even when there are no obvious signs of damage to the brain.

Now, the new trials, at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge and other memory clinics across the country, will test whether it works in a real-world setting.

Over the coming year, some 500 patients will participate. Their results will go to their doctors, who can then advise on a course of treatment where necessary.

Dr Tim Rittman, the consultant neurologist who is leading the research, said the system was a "fantastic development" in the treatment of a syndrome which remains without cure.

Speaking to the BBC, he added: “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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