Artificial Intelligence technology could be a game-changer for people affected by dementia. Find out why Alzheimer’s Society is supporting research in this area.
What is artificial intelligence?
Artificial intelligence (or machine learning) may sound like something from a science fiction novel, but today it’s a feature of everyday life.
Artificial intelligence is specially developed computer programmes that work and react like humans. These programmes can rapidly analyse, learn and self-correct when doing a task that might normally be carried out by a person such as recognising faces, objects or voices as well as making decision.
This type of technology can carry out analysis that is often more sensitive, accurate and at a faster rate than analysis carried out by humans. Such as analysing a brain scan.
Artificial intelligence and dementia
One of the challenges researchers face is being able to accurately and quickly diagnose dementia. Changes begin to take place in the brain up to 20 years before symptoms of dementia appear, by this stage many brain cells have died.
Researchers across the globe are developing computer programmes to spot the earliest signs of dementia. These teams are using huge amounts of data to identify changes to the physical structure of the brain in detailed scans. They are also looking for changes to the energy use and chemical make up of the brain that can’t be seen by the human eye.
This technology can also be used to spot patterns or changes to memory and thinking. This can be achieved using data collected from thousands of people over time. The data can be gathered through written tests or even testing on smartphone apps.
Predicting the future
Another challenge for researchers and clinicians is that dementia is a progressive condition. It affects people differently over time.
Researchers want to use AI to predict how the condition will affect the brain physically over time. Also to predict how symptoms will change and develop over time. This is vital for looking at the true impact of new treatments being tested in people with the condition. It could allow for people with dementia and families to plan more effectively for the future.
Researchers are also beginning to develop use artificial intelligence to analyse our genetic profiles and create models to predict who might be more likely to develop later in life.
Living at home for longer
Technology like artificial intelligence will never replace person-to-person care but, used in the appropriate circumstances, could enhance care and support people affected by dementia to live at home for longer.
Researchers are exploring the possibility of using sensors around the house to intelligently monitor a person's behaviour. This will allow them to spot when they are doing something risky or if there are signs their health might be deteriorating. They can then take action to help the person in real time.
Making the most of artificial intelligence for dementia
This is a fast moving field in dementia research. Alzheimer’s Society is working hard to make sure AI is used to make an impact for everyone affected by dementia.
Challenging the best of the best
We supported the TADPOLE challenge, a competition with researchers across the globe. They were challenged to build a computer programme to predict changes to thinking and memory scores as well as the brain shrinkage. The challenge was supported by data collected from a large group of people with the Alzheimer’s disease.
Changes to brain cells
Our research based at Imperial College London is using AI to see patterns in changes to the energy producing batteries of brain cells in people with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
The Care and Technology centre of the UK Dementia Research Institute, part funded by Alzheimer’s Society, is using AI to automatically integrate patient’s information and flag any unexpected changes. For example highlighting a change in walking pattern that might suggest a patient is at risk of a fall.
We’re supporting researchers at the University of Oxford who are using smartphones to collect huge amounts of data through the GameChanger project. The research will help us understand healthy changes to the brain as we age.
AI is a growing area of dementia research. It holds huge potential for more accurate, early diagnosis of the condition as well as predicting its progression.
We look forward to seeing how this exciting field grows and develops in the coming years. We will continue to support research in this every changing field.
Join Dementia Research
Are you interested in taking part in dementia research? You can register your interest with Join Dementia Research.