New test could revolutionize the diagnosis of dementia
The UK's National Health Service is conducting a five-minute iPad test to quickly and effectively identify the first signs of dementia. Such a test could provide tremendous benefits to patients and their families, and recognize the disease years before the onset of symptoms.
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study has found that testing a so-called iPad in the future may help diagnose dementia much earlier, resulting in better treatment and better management of the disease. The results of the current study were published in the English language journal "Scientific Reports".
There is no cure for dementia
Earlier diagnosis could lead to effective therapies. Dementia currently can not be cured. Such a novel test could also reduce the number of concerned persons being examined for signs of dementia, saving the health service a lot of time and money, say the researchers. The test, which does not require medical monitoring, uses artificial intelligence to assess brain function.
Participants had to identify animals on photos
The participants will be shown around 100 photos. Then it asks if the pictures contain an animal. Some clearly show an animal, other pictures show less obvious animals, other pictures contain no animal at all. The photos only appear on the iPad for a fraction of a second. Possible abnormalities, which are indicated by differences in reaction rate and accuracy, may indicate dementia well before the onset of memory loss. This test could be a more effective tool for detecting early signs of dementia than previous assessments, the authors of the study speculate. The new ability to diagnose dementia with the help of an iPad is already in a test phase, if all goes well, the test could probably already in the next year in the UK nationwide use.
Existing tests can be influenced by a few factors
There is currently no single test for dementia. So far, patients have been diagnosed based on skills such as memory, concentration, attention span, and language skills. It is acknowledged that existing tests can be influenced by a person's level of education, and it also has a significant influence on whether patients have performed the test before.
Patients may need to perform the test twice
The iPad test is based on research that identifies problems in visual processing that can give an early indication of the development of dementia. Each image differs from the other images in terms of complexity and degree of surprise. Many mathematical features of the image play a role, so that each image acts as stimuli, explain the authors of the study. If the iPad test indicates early signs of mild cognitive impairment or dementia, patients may be asked to perform the test again if they were unusually tired, drank alcohol the night before, or were distracted during the test.
Test allows production of new drugs
By determining which parts of the brain are affected first, the iPad test could then help scientists develop a cure. Billions of pounds in research funding will go into the testing of drugs for the later stages of dementia, the researchers report. By identifying people with early signs of the disease, experts can gain new insights. The test is quick and easy to perform and is designed to examine brain areas affected in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
Interestingly, this early-stage test can help identify disease even before memory and thinking issues affect the lives of those affected.
Further research is needed
"It is encouraging that this technology will be included in studies that assess their potential," the researchers say. Sensitive AI techniques provide a tremendous opportunity to improve the detection of dementia-causing diseases and ensure accurate diagnosis at the right time. Rigorous testing on a large number of people is only required before it can be determined whether the iPad test is more accurate and more sensitive than other ways to detect dementia. (As)