A drawing of two children stealing cookies behind their mother’s back is being used by an artificial intelligence system to detect the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The system uses voice samples of people describing the scene to predict whether healthy people may get the disease.
The artificial intelligence (AI) could predict onset Alzheimer’s disease seven years earlier than human doctors with 70 percent accuracy.
Fiona Carragher, director of research, said: “Getting a dementia diagnosis in good time is critical to living well with the condition. We desperately need more research of this kind; given Alzheimer’s disease causes brain changes up to 15 years before symptoms show.”
Alzheimer’s damages the memory and other cognitive abilities (thinking, spatial orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning, speech, reasoning, etc.) by destroying connections between nerve cells in the brain.
Some studies suggest that disease is the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer.
The AI model, developed by IBM Research and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, uses natural language processing to analyse short excerpts of speech taken from the Cookie Theft cognitive test. The test, used for many years in the diagnosis of dementia and other cognitive illnesses, asks people to describe what they see in the picture.
The AI spotted subtle changes to language, such as grammatical errors and different sentence structure, which indicate cognitive decline.
Although there is currently no known cure for the disease, knowing who might develop it could help with treatments,