A new artificial intelligence and deep learning technology may be able to detect early Alzheimer's with a near perfect accuracy rate.
A team from the Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) in Lithuania built the analyzation method that they believe has over 99 percent accuracy.
The method also operates much faster than a person can at analyzing and recognizing signs of the condition.
If as good as advertised, the AI-powered method would change the way Alzheimer's is diagnosed and could help physicians detect it earlier and more accurately - allowing for potential treatment to start earlier as well.
HOW TO DETECT ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory, thinking skills and the ability to perform simple tasks.
It is the cause of 60% to 70% of cases of dementia.
The majority of people with Alzheimer's are age 65 and older
More than six million Americans have Alzheimer's.
It is unknown what causes Alzheimer's. Those who have the APOE gene are more likely to develop late-onset Alzheimer's.
Signs and symptoms:
- Difficulty remembering newly learned information
- Mood and behavioral changes
- Suspicion about family, friends and professional caregivers
- More serious memory loss
- Difficulty with speaking, swallowing and walking
Stages of Alzheimer's:
- Mild Alzheimer's (early-stage) - A person may be able to function independently but is having memory lapses
- Moderate Alzheimer's (middle-stage) - Typically the longest stage, the person may confuse words, get frustrated or angry, or have sudden behavioral changes
- Severe Alzheimer's disease (late-stage) - In the final stage, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, carry on a conversation and, eventually, control movement
'Medical professionals all over the world attempt to raise awareness of an early Alzheimer's diagnosis, which provides the affected with a better chance of benefiting from treatment,' said Rytis Maskeliūnas, a researcher from KTU told Euro News about the findings, which were published in Diagnostics.
He said the accuracy of the algorithm is promising, but his team will work more to gather more data on how to improve their system.
'Obviously, such high numbers are not indicators of true real-life performance, but we're working with medical institutions to get more data,' he said.
'We need to make the most of data. That's why our research group focuses on the European open science principle, so anyone can use our knowledge and develop it further.
'I believe that this principle contributes greatly to societal advancement.'
Researchers believe they could convert their algorithm into a software physicians around the world can use.
Patients who are at a higher risk of the condition, or are showing symptoms of it, can be scanned using their system and whether they are suffering from the condition can be found early.
They warn that their algorithm can not just replace doctors outright, though.
'Technologies can make medicine more accessible and cheaper.
'Although they will never (or at least not soon) truly replace the medical professional, technologies can encourage seeking timely diagnosis and help,' Maskeliunas said.
'While there are currently no cures to Alzheimer's or dementia early detection can still be important.'
A person knowing that they have Alzheimer's or dementia can help them plan for their life ahead with the condition.
They can plan ahead for the future as their condition deteriorates, and have a system set up in place to take care of them as they cognitively decline.
There are also some medications and cognitive treatments that could be able to slow the conditions down.
A person diagnosed with Alzheimer's - which is the leading cause of dementia - will have their brain shrink over time.
The condition effects more than six million Americans, a vast majority of which are 65 or older.
What exactly causes Alzheimer's is unknown, though scientists do believe there is a genetic component to developing the disease.