Wednesday 21 November 2018

AI can spot early signs of Alzheimer's years before patient diagnosis

Joining hands: Alzheimer’s affects around 48,000 people in Ireland
Joining hands: Alzheimer’s affects around 48,000 people in Ireland

John von Radowitz

Artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to spot early signs of Alzheimer's disease years before a patient would normally be diagnosed.

Scientists conducting a small pilot study trained a self-learning computer programme to recognise tell-tale features in brain scans too subtle for humans to see. The system was able to detect the beginnings of Alzheimer's in 40 patients an average of more than six years before they were formerly diagnosed.

British AI expert Professor Noel Sharkey, from the University of Sheffield, said of the US findings: "This is exactly the sort of task that deep learning is cut out for - finding high level patterns in data. Although the sample sizes and test sets were relatively small, the result are so promising that a much larger study would be worthwhile."

The American researchers trained the "deep learning algorithm" using more than 2,100 PET (positron emission tomography) scans from 1,002 patients.

In one test, the algorithm was given a set of 40 scans from 40 patients it had never studied before.

It proved to be 100pc accurate at detecting Alzheimer's disease an average of more than six years prior to a patient's final diagnosis.

The research is published in the latest issue of the journal 'Radiology'.

Irish Independent

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