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Artificial Intelligence could soon diagnose dementia with a single brain scan

Dementia and its cure has evaded the medical community for decades, with the diagnosis of the disease alone needing several scans and tests. Currently a dementia diagnosis could take multiple weeks or even months to be confirmed—wasting valuable time for the lives of people living with the condition. Now there seems to be a new breakthrough: Artificial Intelligence (AI). With all the genuine concerns about the power of AI—from deepfakes to scary robots—here we are, finally at a positive standstill. With a single brain scan, AI could diagnose dementia and more. So, how does it work?

The AI system developed by UK scientists—which is being trialled at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and other memory clinics across the country—will compare the brain scans of concerned individuals with scans of existing dementia patients along with any relevant medical records. Not only can the AI system diagnose or predict dementia in people (with this cross-referencing), but it can also determine the severity of the condition. The technology will be able to measure whether the patient will remain stable for years to come, or in more serious cases, require immediate treatment.

The BBC, who initially reported the story, showcased the scientists behind the AI technology. Cambridge University’s Professor Zoe Kourtzi—a fellow for The Alan Turing Institute (a national centre for AI and data science)—developed the AI dementia system, told BBC News, “If we intervene early, the treatments can kick in early and slow down the progression of the disease and at the same time avoid more damage. And it’s likely that symptoms occur much later in life or may never occur.”

You may be wondering why the doctors don’t look for those patterns themselves. Well, the sophisticated algorithm backing Kourtzi’s AI system, from a single brain scan, can identify dementia patterns across thousands of scans and medical records that even medical professionals and neurologists cannot see. The AI system’s advancement has been proven in preclinical tests to be a tool that is able to diagnose dementia even before any symptoms are exhibited. In simpler terms, it can detect whether you have it before you do. This could revolutionise dementia treatment. Doctor Tim Rittman, a consultant neurologist, is leading the study trials (alongside the team of neurologists from Cambridge) across the country that would put this technology into practice.

Rittman told the BBC that this AI technology is a “fantastic development” in the fight against dementia, “When I am delivering this information to a patient, anything I can do to be more confident about the diagnosis, to give them more information about the progression of the disease to help them plan their lives is a great thing to be able to do.” The trial’s aim is to identify whether this AI system will work in a clinical setting—with 500 patients expected to participate in the first year. Their subsequent results will then be forwarded to their doctors, who can then advise on the next course of action.

And while that’s underway, it is also important to engage in preventative care to keep your brain healthy. So put on your healthy thinking caps and brace yourselves for more innovative AI solutions in healthcare to follow. Now we’re looking at you, pulse oximeters.

How to keep your brain healthy

Mental health and physical health are talked about a lot. However, people don’t talk enough about brain health. In your 20s and 30s, your brain health probably isn’t top of your agenda—who cares how sharp you’re going to be in your 80s? However, as people slide into midlife, they really start to become aware of their declining brain health: forgetting where things are, not coming up with funny remarks as quickly, and more. This guide will show you a few things that you can do to keep your brain healthy.

Exercise regularly

It should come as no surprise that exercise is at the top of this list. Yes, it really is the answer to everything. It improves your physical health, your mental health, and your brain health. Regular exercise stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline. Plus, it makes it easy to concentrate and keeps you mentally sharp. There’s no getting around it—you need to exercise if you want to live a long and healthy life.

Get plenty of sleep

Yep, sleep is important as well. Anyone who understands the human body won’t be shocked to see that high-quality sleep is linked to brain health as well. Sleep allows our body to repair and re-energise for the next day. If you miss out on sleep, your body and brain will suffer. How much sleep you get isn’t the only important thing either, the quality of the sleep matters. The more time spent in the REM stage of sleep, the better. That means you need uninterrupted sleep.

Eat a Mediterranean diet

If you’re serious about improving your brain health, you should consider eating a Mediterranean diet. This diet involves a lot of vegetables, oil, fruit, fish, and nuts. According to experts, the most important ingredient in this diet (for brain health) is extra-virgin olive oil. It is thought to reduce the formation of plaque and tangles in the brain.

Play online games

Believe it or not, gaming can actually help your brain stay healthier for longer. For years, people have falsely claimed that gaming rots your brain. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Games require active attention and stimulate the brain in a unique way. Check out the top casino games or play a game that is designed specifically for brain training.

Stay mentally active

If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. This mantra is a great way to think about brain health. It’s important to use your brain actively every day if you want to stay sharp. Something as simple as a crossword puzzle every day can stimulate your brain and keep it from decaying. Never stop challenging yourself.

Remain socially involved

Social activity is really important if you want to keep your brain healthy. Building social networks and engaging in social activity improve cognitive function and keep your mind agile.

It can even reduce the risk of dementia. Who knew that having friends was actually good for your brain health? Stay in touch with your loved ones and your mind will stay sharp as a razor.