AI Used to Screen for Dementia

Michigan State University’s (MSU), researchers are developing technology to be able to scan speech and vocabulary patterns to catch early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia

Jiayu Zhou PhD, Associate Professor, at MSU’s College of Engineering is leading the effort powered by Artificial Intelligence, (AI) and being funded by a $3.9 million grant from NIH in collaboration with Oregon Health & Science University, and Weill Cornell Medicine The goal is to code an easy to use smart phone app to help assess whether a follow-up medical diagnosis is needed.

Dr. Zhou believes that AI can detect more subtle shifts in speech and behavior earlier and more reliably than human observers. Furthermore, packaging the power of AI in an app would make it far more affordable and accessible than medical diagnostics, such as MRI scans and in vivo testing.

The research team has already shown in preliminary tests that using the app is as accurate as MRIs in recognizing early warning signs. The data was collected by collaborators at Oregon Health Science University in a clinical trial study to study how conversations might serve as therapeutic intervention for dementia or early Alzheimer’s.

The team has a working prototype app that interviews a user and records their audio responses. One of the next steps is to refine the questions that the app asks, as well as how the questions are asked.

The second goal is to bring in data beyond linguistic patterns that will help the AI make an assessment. The team is also working on integrating behavior sensors. The app would digest all of the data, then give users risk scores of how likely that they are displaying signs of dementia. The team stressed that at the end of the day, it would be the doctor not a computer making the diagnosis.


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