University, think tank to develop AI diagnosis system for early stage dementia

A university and a think tank in western Japan said Monday they plan to develop a diagnosis system using artificial intelligence to detect early stage dementia, hoping to put it to practical use by the end of March 2020.

Dementia is caused by damage in the brain and its treatment becomes difficult as it progresses. The new system to be created by Shimane University and Erisa Co. is aimed at detecting early signs of “Mild Cognitive Impairment” with high accuracy, as people with this condition often develop dementia later.

Under the system, the AI element will learn a number of MRI images showing brain blood flow to identify what changes are characteristic of Mild Cognitive Impairment and the early signs of the disease. Studies have already shown that blood flow in a certain area in the brain changes before the brain starts shrinking.

Mild Cognitive Impairment causes a slight but noticeable decline in cognitive abilities, including memory. Doctors currently check images of brain shrinkage for diagnosis of the disease, but the accuracy of their judgment has depended on their skills.

In an experimental study, Shimane University and Erisa found that AI which had learned images of the shrunken brains of dementia patients managed to judge with 90 percent or more accuracy whether the patient was suffering from dementia.

Shimane University’s Faculty of Medicine and the Shimane Institute of Health Science, which will also be involved in the project, will provide the necessary medical data for the development of the new system and carry out research.

“We hope the university’s data will be used for the benefit of society,” Yasunao Hattori, the president of Shimane University said.

Erisa, which is based in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, will be in charge of the use of AI and will work for the commercialization of the system.

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