In Brief

AI can detect Alzheimer’s a decade before symptoms show

The programme could help patients receive medication early to manage the disease

Researchers have created an artificial intelligence (AI) programme that can detect signs of Alzheimer’s disease up to ten years before symptoms appear. 

Developed by a team at the University of Bari, in Italy, the computer system scans the brain for “tiny structural changes” that indicate the early stages of the disease, reports Engadget.  

The AI was fed 38 MRI scans from Alzheimer’s patients, and 29 from healthy patients, the website says, to help it learn common patterns in neurological activity and the symptoms of the disease. 

Researchers then used the programme to “process brain scans from 148 subjects”. The AI was able to correctly detect Alzheimer’s, with a success rate of 86% - and it could also identify “mild cognitive impairment” 84% of the time.

That suggests the programme could be used to find the disease “almost a decade before the appearance of clinical symptoms”, says International Business Times

Although there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer’s, early diagnosis and treatment can slow down the progression of the disease. 

This isn’t the first study that involves using “cutting-edge technology to help diagnose Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases”, reports Digital Trends

Scientists at the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam have also been using MRI brain scans to try to achieve earlier Alzheimer’s diagnoses, the website says, while an AI programme being developed by researchers from several universities in California may soon be able to detect the disease through an eye test. 

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