Can AI Be Used to Predict Who Will Develop Dementia?

The study was published in the JAMA Network Open and funded by Alzheimer's Research UK.

MDDI Staff

December 20, 2021

2 Min Read
Ivan Chiosea / Alamy Stock Photo

What if there was a way to predict who would have dementia? Would it be a difference-maker? Well, researchers from the University of Exeter found that artificial intelligence can accurately tell who will go on to develop dementia.

To develop the AI technique, scientists used data from more than 15,300 patients for the research.

The technique works by spotting hidden patterns in the data and learning who is most at risk. The study, published in JAMA Network Open and funded by Alzheimer's Research UK, also suggested that the algorithm could help reduce the number of people who may have been falsely diagnosed with dementia.

The researchers analyzed data from people who attended a network of 30 National Alzheimer's Coordinating Center memory clinics in the US. The attendees did not have dementia at the start of the study, though many were experiencing problems with memory or other brain functions.

In the study timeframe between 2005 and 2015, one in ten attendees (1,568) received a new diagnosis of dementia within two years of visiting the memory clinic. The research found that the machine learning model could predict these new dementia cases with up to 92% accuracy -- and far more accurately than two existing alternative research methods.

The researchers also found for the first time that around 8% (130) of the dementia diagnoses appeared to be made in error, as their diagnosis was subsequently reversed. Machine learning models accurately identified more than 80% of these inconsistent diagnoses. Artificial intelligence can not only accurately predict who will be diagnosed with dementia, it also has the potential to improve the accuracy of these diagnoses.

The researchers found that machine learning works efficiently, using patient information routinely available in clinic, such as memory and brain function, performance on cognitive tests and specific lifestyle factors. The team now plans to conduct follow-up studies to evaluate the practical use of the machine learning method in clinics, to assess whether it can be rolled out to improve dementia diagnosis, treatment, and care.


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