An artificial intelligence (AI) system from the University of California, US, can predict the development of Alzheimer’s with 100 percent accuracy and six years before symptoms of the disease appear.

According to researchers, most people have only four to eight years left to live by the time they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

  • What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. It is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include memory loss and confusion. No cure exists for the disease. There are over 1.5 million cases of Alzheimer’s per year in Nigeria.

The researchers say despite the fact that Alzheimer’s is among the top 10 deadliest diseases in the world, “we’ve only begun to have a rudimentary understanding of the condition in recent years”.

The scientists taught the AI how to detect subtle changes in the brain that would be imperceptible to the human eye.

Specifically, the new system’s machine learning system was able to learn patterns in nearly 2,000 brain scans taken of 1,000 patients.

Jae Ho Sohn, a member of the research team, said they tested the system on 40 scans that were completely new to the algorithm.

The AI system detected every single patient that eventually developed Alzheimer’s from brain scans taken an average of six years before a person’s diagnosis was made.

“We were very pleased with the algorithm’s performance,” Sohn said.

“It will be some time – and more testing – before the system is publicly available.

“If we diagnose Alzheimer’s disease when all the symptoms have manifested, the brain volume loss is so significant that it’s too late to intervene.

“If we can detect it earlier, that’s an opportunity for investigators to potentially find better ways to slow down or even halt the disease process.”

The researchers say while there are medications available to help patients manage memory loss, “they are not a fix, they will not stop or reverse memory loss, they simply might slightly slow its progression and help make day-to-day living a little more manageable.

“Earlier detection would mean more effective treatment for sufferers. This means that early detection is the single best hope for the futures of the 44 million people living with Alzheimer’s around the world.”

The study was published in Radiology.

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