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Scientists trial AI-system which could diagnose dementia in one scan

Earlier intervention could help slow the disease’s progression and ensure patients have more information on their situation.

An artificial-intelligence system can diagnose dementia after one brain scan.
An artificial-intelligence system can diagnose dementia after one brain scan.
Image: PA

RESEARCHERS ARE TRIALLING an artificial-intelligence system which they believe can diagnose dementia after one brain scan.

Those involved in the work said being able to intervene earlier could help with efforts to slow the disease’s progression and ensure patients have more information on their situation at an earlier stage.

Some 500 patients are expected to take part in the first year of the trial at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, UK, and other memory clinics across the country.

The system works by comparing brain scans of people who suspect they might have dementia with those who have already been diagnosed. An algorithm is used to detect patterns in the scans that expert neurologists cannot identify.

Zoe Kourtzi, professor of cognitive computational neuroscience at the Alan Turing Institute and professor of experimental psychology at the University of Cambridge, said early intervention is key.

She told the BBC: “If we intervene early, the treatments can kick in early and slow down the progression of the disease and at the same time avoid more damage.

And it’s likely that symptoms occur much later in life or may never occur.

Consultant neurologist Dr Timothy Rittman, from the University of Cambridge, told the BBC the artificial-intelligence system was a “fantastic development”.

He said: “These set of diseases are really devastating for people.

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“So when I am delivering this information to a patient, anything I can do to be more confident about the diagnosis, to give them more information about the likely progression of the disease to help them plan their lives is a great thing to be able to do.”

More than 850,000 people in the UK are thought to have dementia, according to the NHS, with the condition affecting one in 14 people over the age of 65, and one in six people aged over 80.

Alzheimer’s Research UK has said predictions from 2014 estimated that one million people here will have dementia by 2025, doubling to two million by 2050.

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