Computers Diagnose Faster

A team of researchers led by scientists at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London, has shown that scans of patients with Alzheimer's can be distinguished from those of healthy individuals and patients with other forms of dementia. Computers can identify the characteristic damage of Alzheimer's disease with an accuracy as high as 96%.

The new method, developed by Professor Frackowiak’s team from the Wellcome Trust Centre, works by teaching a standard computer the differences between brain scans from patients with proven Alzheimer’s disease and people with no signs of the disease at all. The two conditions can be distinguished with a high degree of accuracy on a single clinical MRI scan. This could be especially useful for centres where facilities for extensive diagnostic workup are unavailable. One use might be to reassure the worried elderly well with mild memory problems that they are not suffering from early Alzheimer’s.

The research tested scans from the US and the UK, from community and from academic hospitals. The method was shown to be valid by testing it on scans from people who had their status proven by pathological examination – the gold standard. The results were uniformly encouraging. The computer could be taught the distinction between normal and Alzheimer’s with one set of scans and then used to correctly "diagnose" scans from another set. In all cases the results were better than the 86% correct diagnostic rate of best clinical practice.

The researchers also found they could distinguish Alzheimer’s better than clinicians from a similar disease called fronto-temporal dementia. "The next step is to see whether we can use the technique to reliably track progression of the disease in a patient," says Frackowiak.

MEDICA.de; Source: Wellcome Trust