AI of­fers new hope for Alzheimer’s suf­fer­ers

Herald on Sunday - - OPINION -

Anew ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence sys­tem can pre­dict the de­vel­op­ment of Alzheimer’s with 100 per cent ac­cu­racy and six years be­fore the hall­marks doc­tors use to di­ag­nose the dis­ease ap­pear.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s and the ef­fec­tive­ness of the best treat­ments for the dis­ease di­min­ishes as it pro­gresses, mean­ing early de­tec­tion is the best hope for the fu­tures of the 44 mil­lion suf­fer­ers around the world.

Sci­en­tists at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cisco, taught their AI how to de­tect sub­tle changes in the brain that would be im­per­cep­ti­ble to the hu­man eye.

At present doc­tors sim­ply use a process of elim­i­na­tion to rule out as many other causes of mem­ory loss as pos­si­ble, based on brain scans.

While a doc­tor might see the signs of change in dis­parate im­ages, it would take an im­pos­si­bly long time for hu­mans to map out th­ese changes and their sub­tle pat­terns in enough pa­tients over a long-enough span of time, to say with cer­tainty which changes pre­dict Alzheimer’s.

AI may be the key to de­tect­ing Alzheimer’s early enough to pre­serve some mem­ory func­tion — for six years longer, the new study, pub­lished in Ra­di­ol­ogy, sug­gests.

Specif­i­cally, the new sys­tem’s ma­chine learn­ing sys­tem was able to learn pat­terns in nearly 2000 brain scans taken of 1000 pa­tients.

“If we di­ag­nose Alzheimer’s dis­ease when all the symp­toms have man­i­fested, the brain vol­ume loss is so sig­nif­i­cant that it’s too late to in­ter­vene,” the study’s au­thors said.

“If we can de­tect it ear­lier, that’s an op­por­tu­nity for in­ves­ti­ga­tors to po­ten­tially find bet­ter ways to slow down or even halt the dis­ease process.”

Most peo­ple have only four to eight years left to live by the time they are di­ag­nosed.

There are med­i­ca­tions avail­able but they are not a fix and sim­ply slightly slow its pro­gres­sion and help make day-to-day liv­ing a lit­tle more man­age­able.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.