AI recognizes Alzheimer's disease years before a diagnosis



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Shot of human brains through PET

Thousands of PET images from Alzheimer's patients at an early stage used the researchers to train their AI. (Photo: Radiological Society of North America)

BerlinIn the fight against Alzheimer's disease, early detection is particularly important. If the still incurable dementia is detected early, it can at least delay its course with medication.

"If we diagnose Alzheimer's disease only when clear symptoms appear, the loss of brain volume is so great that it's usually too late for effective intervention," explains Jae Ho Sohn.

Together with his team at the University of California, San Francisco, the doctor developed a new tool for the early detection of Alzheimer's disease: an adaptive algorithm that safely predicts years of dementia before a doctor's diagnosis.

The researchers focused their development on subtle metabolic changes in the brain caused by the onset of the disease. Such changes can be visualized using an imaging technique known as positron emission tomography (PET).

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However, traces in the early stages of the disease are so weak that they are hardly recognizable even for experienced physicians. "It's easier for humans to find disease-specific biomarkers," explains Sohn. "But metabolic changes are much more subtle processes."

The researchers trained their artificial intelligence using data from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). Among other things, this data collection contains thousands of PET images of Alzheimer's patients at very early stages of the disease. 90% of these recordings, the researchers used to train the algorithm, the remaining 10% to track success.

For the final test, the AI ​​had to finally analyze 40 images that had not been submitted to it until then. The result describes the child as follows: "The algorithm was able to safely detect any case, which later came to the onset of Alzheimer's disease."

In addition to the 100% accuracy rate, the doctors impressed, above all, the early identification of cases. On average, the system recognized the symptoms more than six years before the actual diagnosis of the disease. "We were delighted with this result," says Son. However, the doctor also knows that the series of tests is still relatively small and more tests should confirm the result.

Still, he sees in his algorithm the potential for an important tool in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease: "If we can detect the disease earlier, it will give researchers the opportunity to find better ways to delay or even stop the disease process" . ".

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