AI Algorithm Based App Can Accurately Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease

July 08, 2021 | 4 minutes read

Researchers are creating an app that will use an AI algorithm to detect early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers at MSU’s College of Engineering have come together to work on developing a mobile app that, with the help of artificial intelligence algorithm, would analyze a person’s vocabulary and speech patterns to detect whether he/she is experiencing any early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

The project is being led by Jiayu Zhou, an associate professor at the university. The university has also partnered with Weill Cornell Medicine and Oregon Health & Science University for the successful development of this project. 

The goal is to develop a robust and user-friendly app for mobile phones that would help Alzheimer’s patients seek the medical care they need immediately by helping them identify early signs of memory loss.

“Alzheimer’s is tough to deal with and it’s very easy to confuse its early stage, mild cognitive impairment, with normal cognitive decline as we’re getting older. It’s only when it gets worse that we realize what’s going on and, by that time, it’s too late,” said Zhou in a press release.

Catching the disease in early stages can stop it from worsening

As for now, Alzheimer’s disease does not have any cure. But, catching the disease in its early stages can effectively help it from getting worse. The successful development of this app would also help researchers and doctors to come up with a treatment in the coming years.

According to Zhou, it is much easier to detect any problems in the behavior and speech of a person through artificial intelligence algorithm as compared to human observations. Also, including the ability for people to diagnose the problem themselves would help make medical care much more accessible and affordable.

Initial testing’s have been performed by the professor and his team and the results seen were as effective as those of MRIs. The Oregon Health & Science University was responsible for collecting the test results. The OHSU is also carrying out a medical trial analyzing how Alzheimer’s and dementia can be improved with the help of conversations as  therapeutic intervention.

“If we want to develop an app that everyone can use, we don’t want to have people talking to it for hours. We need to develop an efficient strategy so we can navigate the conversation and get the data we need as quickly as possible, within 5 to 10 minutes.” Zhou said.

Though the prototype of the app that was used for testing is already available, researchers still need to work on improving and refining the procedure. This includes working on the questions that the app required for testing, the way these questions were asked , and how information can be obtained from the user easily.

The goal is to bring the data beyond just language patterns

Other than this, to assist the Artificial intelligence algorithm in making an assessment, the researchers aim to bring the data beyond just language patterns.

“For example, the app will also examine acoustic signals of the conversation and it may also further leverage video to analyze facial expressions along with the words a user is saying. The team is also working on integrating behavior sensors that would track things like how much sleep a person is getting to supplement the app’s interview language analysis,” MSU stated in a press release. 

Once all the information that was input is analyzed by the AI technology, the user would be presented with a score that would identify their chances of having the disease, or developing it in the coming years. Other than this, the professor also said that in the end, the user should ot rely on the app for the final diagnosis, but the doctor.

However, the app would still be very useful and affordable for patients tot test themselves at home. Also, it would allow them to get treated as soon as possible before the disease causes any irreversible damage.

“You cannot replace that human interaction,” Zhou said. “The final assessment will be done by a patient’s physician. But if you have doubts and the app says you’re at a higher risk, you don’t have to wait. You can visit a clinician and take the next steps.”

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