07 December 2015

8 December: Computers to detect Alzheimer’s

Medical Imaging

“Where did I just put my keys?” Most people have forgotten things, and even though forgetting where you put your keys is not likely to be a sign of Alzheimer’s, you and your loved one could get an easy, affordable diagnosis with today’s Christmas researcher.

Alzheimer’s is strongly correlated with age, and diagnosing it can be expensive. Mads Nielsen is a professor at the Department of Computer Science whose research focuses on medical imaging. He hopes that his research will be able to improve screening programmes for the benefit of people with dementia.

"I conduct research in how to get computers to process visual information – in this case, with Alzheimer’s sufferers. Specifically, it is about getting computers to read medical scans and find information in the imagery that radiologists have not been able to see. With the help of large quantities of data, we are attempting to train the computer to find visible patterns and aberrations in people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s."

Cheaper technology

Today, Alzheimer’s is diagnosed with the help of a brain scan, among other things, which is then analysed by a doctor. However, the process is an expensive one. Mads Nielsen hopes that a simple, effective method of treating Alzheimer´s will become available over the next couple of years, and that his computer programme will be able to make a significant contribution.

"Once a treatment for Alzheimer’s is discovered, it will be able to slow progress of the disease. So being diagnosed as early on as possible will be important. This is where the computer comes into play. It will be able to perform automated analyses of scans, thus helping to make better economic sense for a wider group of people to get tested. Early diagnoses will also serve to keep health expenses in check."