AI Revolutionizes Early Dementia Detection

More than 55 million people worldwide suffer from dementia. That's in addition to the nearly 10 million new cases per year. 

There's no cure for dementia, but that doesn't mean the disease is being swept under the rug. For example, researchers at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom have developed CognoSpeak, an artificial intelligence (AI) tool designed to streamline the diagnosis of dementia.

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What You Need To Know

In simple terms, CognoSpeak combines AI and speech technology to assess early signs of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. And not only does it assess these signs, but early trials show an accuracy rate of 90%. 

CognoSpeak is accessed via a web browser, allowing patients to take the test on their own time from the comfort of their homes. That level of convenience will encourage a larger number of people to use the tool. 

To date, CognoSpeak has received a £1.4 million ($1.8 million) grant from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), providing the funding needed to continue its development and roll out the technology in memory clinics across the U.K. 

How Does It Work?

CognoSpeak engages with patients by asking questions and conducting cognitive tests modeled after outpatient consultations. 

The tests, including verbal fluency and picture description tasks, aim to probe memory capabilities. Using artificial intelligence and speech technology, the tool analyzes language and speech patterns to detect signs of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders. 

CognoSpeak believes the system could significantly lighten the load on dementia assessment services following additional testing in U.K. primary- and secondary-care memory clinics. 

Designed to bridge the gap between primary and secondary care, general practitioners (GPs) could use CognoSpeak to assess patients presenting memory complaints. The tool would then relay the test results back to the GPs, who would determine whether a referral to a memory clinic for further examination is necessary.

Developed by Dr. Daniel Blackburn from the University of Sheffield's Departments of Neuroscience and Computer Science, CognoSpeak has the potential to change the future of dementia diagnosis and care.

"Waiting for a possible diagnosis of dementia can be a very anxious time for patients and their families," he said. "This tool could help patients start treatments sooner, reduce waiting times and give people certainty earlier."

As CognoSpeak continues to make its way through early trials, it'll be fine-tuned with hopes of rolling it out to medical practitioners in the near future.

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