Identifying Alzheimer’s

By on Oct 24, 2018 in News

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been used to solve complex issues in the medical field—from precisely determining medication dosages to helping doctors identify and treat cancers—for years. As the benefits of artificial intelligence used in science continue to be explored, researchers have announced a breakthrough discovery.

On the heels of an alarming CDC study showing the incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease is expected to double to 14 million by 2060, scientists revealed this month that AI may be able to predict cognitive decline leading to Alzheimer’s up to five years before the disease is diagnosed.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, characterized by memory failure leading to loss of independence. According to the CDC study, it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth leading cause of death among adults aged 65 and older.

Alzheimer’s and memory care are predicted to be the biggest area of growth in senior living, according to a recent survey. With limited diagnosis and treatment, early detection and prevention of the condition are the most effective methods of thwarting Alzheimer’s.

Knowing early detection is key, a team of Canadian scientists led by Mallar Chakravarty, computation neuroscientist and McGill University assistant professor, created an algorithm designed to learn the signatures of dementia onset. Researchers trained the algorithm using MRI imaging, genetics and clinical data from 800 patients, ranging from normal healthy seniors to persons experiencing mild cognitive impairment to patients suffering with fully-developed Alzheimer’s disease.

While the team responsible for this scientific leap has replicated their study results on other independent patient sample groups, they hope to fine-tune the algorithm even more. “We are currently working on testing the accuracy of predictions using new data,” says Dr. Chakravarty. “It will help us to refine predictions and determine if we can predict even further into the future.”

The more data the scientists collect, the better doctors will be able to identify people at greatest risk for cognitive decline leading to Alzheimer’s.

In the senior living industry, this development will help clinical staff recognize patterns which otherwise might be easily missed. Spotting the first symptoms could guide seniors at risk for Alzheimer’s to the right path for treatment and initiate lifestyle changes that may delay the beginning stages of the disease or even prevent it altogether.