Could Machine Learning Better Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease?

Pursuing an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis can not only be costly, but time-consuming. It may take numerous neuropsychological examinations, alongside other testing and analysis, to confirm this diagnosis. The issue is that early diagnosis is crucial to ensuring a better quality-of-life, better care and management, and better support. According to an article in Medical XPress, a research team from Boston University is now working to develop a machine learning model that can detect Alzheimer’s disease using audio recordings. 

Machine Learning: An Overview

Ed Burns, in TechTarget, explains that machine learning is:

a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that allows software applications to become more accurate at predicting outcomes without being explicitly programmed to do so. Machine learning algorithms use historical data as input to predict new output values.

In this particular study, researchers developed a machine learning tool which used natural language processing. First, researchers sourced audio recordings taken from neuropsychological examinations of over 1,000 people. These people had all participated in the Framingham Heart Study. Next, researchers taught the model to gauge the likelihood, severity, and level of cognitive impairment based on what it was hearing, transcribing, and evaluating. 

The data, published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia, highlights the efficacy of this model. Altogether, the machine learning model was able to:

  • Identify those with dementia from those without any cognitive impairment
  • Tell researchers which patients had mild cognitive impairment (MCI) versus more severe Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • Determine a potential diagnosis based on what people were saying during their examinations, as opposed to how people were speaking
  • Found that the Boston Naming Test was one of the most effective ways to accurately predict or diagnose dementia

Moving forward, more research is needed to further evaluate this machine learning model. If you would like to participate in research, consider signing up as a volunteer for the NOC Lab Dementia Assessment. If you participate, you may submit an anonymous cognitive assessment. This will help researchers to create a more effective artificial intelligence model. 

About Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder which causes brain cell death and degeneration. Doctors and scientists believe that a combination of genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle factors play a role in Alzheimer’s disease development. Risk factors include older age, a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, past head trauma, poor sleeping or exercise patterns, or being female. Unfortunately, this disease increases in severity over time. Symptoms can (but may not always) include:

  • Difficulty remembering new information
  • Changes in behavior and personality
  • Difficulty speaking, swallowing, and walking
  • Confusion and/or disorientation
  • Unfounded suspicions or fears about friends or family members
  • Poor judgment and decision making
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty with thinking and reasons, planning, or completing familiar tasks
  • Malnutrition and/or dehydration (complication)
  • Aspiration (complication)
  • Pneumonia (complication)
Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email