BerlinIn the fight against Alzheimer's disease, early detection is particularly important. If still incurable dementia is detected early, it can at least slow down the medication course.
If we diagnose Alzheimer's only when clear symptoms develop, the loss of brain volume is so great that it is usually too late for effective intervention, "explains Jae Ho Sohn.
Together with his team at the University of California, San Francisco, the physician has developed a new tool for early detection of Alzheimer's disease: an adaptive algorithm that predicts dementia for years before diagnosing a doctor.
Researchers have focused their development on subtle metabolic changes in the brain that are 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 of the early stages of the disease are so weak that they are hard to recognize even for experienced physicians. "It's easier for people to find disease-specific biomarkers," explains Sohn. "But metabolic changes are far more subtle processes."
The researchers trained their artificial intelligence using data from the Neuroimaging Initiative of Alzheimer's Disease (ADNI). Among other things, this collection of data contains thousands of PET images of Alzheimer's patients in very early stages of the disease. 90 percent of these records, researchers use the algorithm, the remaining 10 percent to control success.
For the final test, AI had to look at 40 images that had not been shown up until then. The result describes the son as follows: "The algorithm was able to reliably detect any case that eventually came to the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
In addition to the 100% success rate, physicians have been impressed by 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 excited about this result," says the Son. However, the physician also knows that the test series were still relatively small and the additional tests must confirm the result.
However, he sees in his algorithm the potential for an important tool in the treatment of Alzheimer's: If we can detect the disease earlier, it will offer researchers the opportunity to find better ways to slow or even stop the disease process. "