Scientists have uncovered a revolutionary brain scan that accurately diagnoses Alzheimer’s 98% of the time. Alzheimer’s disease leads to significant cognitive decline due to the loss of neurons in the brain. Early warning signs of the neurodegenerative disease include memory loss, difficulty completing tasks, and confusion.
Unfortunately, no cure currently exists for Alzheimer’s, although certain medications can reduce symptom severity. In June 2021, the FDA approved a new medication called aducanumab to treat some cases of Alzheimer’s. The drug works to reduce amyloid plaques in the brain and may slow disease progression.
Researchers have also found thatcould help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s from developing. However, it’s unclear if it works for advanced stages of cognitive decline.
While researchers continue their quest for a cure, they’ve also developed an AI brain scan to detect the disease. Early diagnosis provides the best chance for slowing or even reversing the debilitating illness.
Luckily, the new brain scan can make an Alzheimer’s diagnosis with 98% accuracy. The technology uses machine learning to analyze structural features of the brain. This also includes areas not previously linked to Alzheimer’s or dementia. Since the disease often goes overlooked in its early stages, the brain scan can help in this regard.
Not only does it allow patients to formulate a treatment plan, but it also helps to slow the disease’s progression. If doctors can identify Alzheimer’s patients early, it helps them gain further insight into what goes on in the brain. And this aids in the research and development of possible new therapies.
The study has been published in the Nature Portfolio Journal. The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Imperial Biomedical Research Centre funded the research.
AI Brain Scan Diagnoses Alzheimer’s Correctly 98% of the Time
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia worldwide. It affects over 500,000 people in the UK and around 6.5 million in the US, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It develops in most people after age 65, but it’s becoming more common among younger adults. The most frequent symptoms of dementia include, cognitive decline, and difficulty speaking.
Doctors currently utilize numerous tests to make an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. They may give the patient memory and cognition tests in addition to brain scans. The brain scans can help detect protein (amyloid) deposits in the brain and hippocampus shrinkage. This area of the brain helps with memory recall.
However, getting results from these tests back can take many weeks, making them relatively inefficient. The new brain scans use MRI taken on a 1.5 Tesla machine, which most hospitals have.
Researchers reconstructed an algorithm to classify cancers and applied it to the brain.
Next, they divided the brain into 115 areas and assessed the regions using 660 features, such as shape and size. Finally, they instructed the algorithm to detect where changes to these features could accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s.
The team tested the formula using data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. They analyzed brain scans from over 400 patients with both early and late-stage Alzheimers.
Researchers included healthy patients and those with other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease. In addition, they tested the algorithm on over 80 patients undergoing tests for Alzheimer’s at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
After analyzing the data, the team found that brain scans could accurately detect Alzheimer’s 98% of the time. It could also differentiate between early and later stage Alzheimer’s in about 79% of patients.
Brain Scan Technology Marks Progress in Understanding Alzheimer’s
Professor Eric Aboagye, the lead researcher from Imperial’s Department of Surgery and Cancer, said: “Currently, no other simple and widely available methods can predict Alzheimer’s disease with this level of accuracy, so our research is an important step forward. Many patients who present with Alzheimer’s at memory clinics do also have other neurological conditions, but even within this group our system could pick out those patients who had Alzheimer’s from those who did not.
“Waiting for a diagnosis can be a horrible experience for patients and their families. If we could cut down the time they have to wait, make diagnosis a simpler process, and reduce some of the uncertainty, that would help a great deal. Our new approach could also identify early-stage patients for clinical trials of new drug treatments or lifestyle changes, which is currently very hard to do,” he added.
The new brain scan detected changes in the brain that weren’t previously associated with Alzheimer’s. For instance, researchers found changes in the cerebellum, the area of the brain that governs coordination and physical activity. Also, they detected differences in the ventral diencephalon linked to sight and hearing.
The team says that this warrants further research into how these regions of the brain impact Alzheimers.
Dr. Paresh Malhotra, a consultant neurologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and a researcher in Imperial’s Department of Brain Sciences, said:
“Although neuroradiologists already interpret MRI scans to help diagnose Alzheimer’s, there are likely to be features of the scans that aren’t visible, even to specialists. Using an algorithm able to select the texture and subtle structural features in the brain that are affected by Alzheimer’s could enhance the information we can gain from standard imaging techniques.”
While the brain scan can’t cure Alzheimer’s, it marks a huge step forward in understanding the disease.
Final Thoughts on How Brain Scan Accurately Detects Alzheimer’s
There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia, although researchers have searched for one relentlessly. However, they have created a brain scan that uses machine learning to detect Alzheimer’s 98% of the time. An early diagnosis could make a marked difference in a patient’s prognosis and help them formulate a treatment plan.
Along with FDA-approved medications to lessen symptom severity, the brain scan could increase longevity for Alzheimer’s patients. Hopefully, scientists will discover a cure for the disease affecting millions worldwide. In the meantime, patients can feel hopeful knowing that an early diagnosis is possible.