AI can spot dementia years before any symptoms

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Artificial intelligence could spot the early signs of dementia from a simple brain scan long before major symptoms appear – and in some cases before any symptoms appear – say Cambridge researchers. Molecular and cellular changes to the brain usually begin many years before any symptoms occur. Diagnosing dementia can take many months or even years and can involve a range of CT, PET, and MRI scans as well as invasive lumbar punctures.

A team at the University of Cambridge and The Alan Turing Institute has developed machine learning tools that can detect dementia in patients at a very early stage. Using brain scans from patients who went on to develop Alzheimer’s, their machine learning algorithm learned to spot structural changes in the brain. When combined with the results from standard memory tests, the algorithm was able to provide a prognostic score – that is, the likelihood of the individual having Alzheimer’s disease.

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