Alzheimer's: early detection via AI

Using artificial intelligence to predict the onset of dementia years earlier than human doctors
03 December 2020
Presented by Katie Haylor
Production by Katie Haylor.


The hands of an elderly couple.


Everyday almost 600 people in the UK develop dementia, commonly more older people than younger, and in the UK there are more women with dementia than men. It’s an umbrella group of symptoms caused by diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, where brain cells aren’t working properly, resulting in for instance memory, speech or emotional problems, and it’s not a given part of aging. And sadly, there’s currently no cure. Recently news was published of an artificial intelligence system - developed by IBM and drug company Pfizer - which has analysed bits of speech from participants of a long-running study, who were describing a particular drawing. And these participants were cognitively normal, didn’t have signs of dementia, at the time. Through noting subtle linguistic changes that might indicate the beginnings of cognitive decline, such as grammatical slip ups or altered sentence structures, the system managed to predict the onset of dementia up to 7 years earlier than human doctors, with 70% accuracy. Katie Haylor asked Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, what she made of the announcement...


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