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Scientists have made an ‘accurate method for detection’ for dementia

Alzheimers Research UK explain 'what is dementia?'

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A research team at Massachusetts General Hospital, in America, recently developed “an accurate method for detection” that relies on clinical brain images. Utilising artificial intelligence (AI) machine learning, research fellow Matthew Leming, PhD, and his colleagues developed a model for Alzheimer’s disease detection. Leming, an investigator at the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, based the AI model on MRIs collected from patients who did and did not have the brain condition.

The model was then tested across five datasets to see if it could accurately predict who had Alzheimer’s disease.

Overall, the research involved 11,103 images from 2,348 patients at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and 26,892 images from 8,456 patients without Alzheimer’s disease.

Across all five datasets, the AI model detected Alzheimer’s disease risk with 90.2 percent accuracy.

Lemming said: “This is one of the only studies [published on March 2, 2023] that used routinely collected brain MRIs to attempt to detect dementia.”

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While there has been “a large number of deep learning studies for Alzheimer’s detection from brain MRIs” in the past, Lemming said this new study was “substantial”.

He explained: “This study made substantial steps towards actually performing this in real-world clinical settings as opposed to perfect laboratory settings.”

There was a caveat, however, as “deep learning models often have difficulty in detecting the rarer early-onset cases” of dementia, as most cases are in older adults.

Lemming added: “We addressed this by making the deep learning model ‘blind’ to features of the brain that it finds to be overly associated with the patient’s listed age.”

He noted: “Our results – with cross-site, cross-time, and cross-population generalisability – make a strong case for clinical use of this diagnostic technology.”

Diagnosing dementia

The NHS says: “If you’re worried about your memory, or think you may have dementia, it’s a good idea to see a GP.”

To rule out other conditions, you may have a physical examination, a blood test, and a urine test.

“You’ll also be asked to do a memory or cognitive test to check any problems with your memory or ability to think clearly,” the health body adds.

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Once referred to a specialist, CT and MRI brain scans might be arranged.

“If the specialist is still not certain about the diagnosis, you may need to have further, more complex tests,” it adds.

“But most cases of dementia can be diagnosed after these assessments.”

An accurate and early diagnosis means the person affected can begin to get their personal and business affairs in order.

The person affected can take a more proactive approach to the treatment they would like.

“If you’re diagnosed with dementia, you may be able to help scientists better understand the condition by taking part in research,” says the NHS.

“Find out more about volunteering for research and trials on the NHS Join Dementia Research website.”

The research study can be found in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

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