Blog | The Revolutionary Potential of Artificial Intelligence in Alzheimer's Research

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly present in our lives. Voice assistants, translators, Amazon's personalized recommendations or even the ads that appear on social networks are the result of Artificial Intelligence. There are many areas in which AI is gaining importance, one of the most promising fields being its application in the healthcare sector, especially in the context of Alzheimer's disease.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

The term Artificial Intelligence refers to the "ability of a system to learn from data to solve a given task". This definition, which may seem a bit abstract, can be better understood by analyzing its three key concepts:

  • What do we mean by system? The term system usually refers to any type of computer program capable of processing information; executing a series of instructions following a set of rules.
  • What do we mean by task? A task is the purpose, the objective or the problem to be solved. For example, an AI system designed to diagnose Alzheimer's is nothing more than a computer program that is giving a binary answer of yes or no, indicating whether or not the patient has the disease.
  • What do we mean by “the ability to learn”? Like people, a computer program learns from experience through trial and error. Continuing with the previous example, let’s assume our AI system has a large database of Alzheimer's patients evaluated by a team of specialists. In this case, learning implies that, using all this data, the system will adjust a series of rules capable of imitating the decisions of the clinical specialist.
Applications of Artificial Intelligence in Alzheimer's disease

The range of possible applications of Artificial Intelligence in the field of Alzheimer's is quite wide. For example, from a large amount of data and, in just a few seconds, an AI system can find us the optimal combination of neuropsychological tests capable of making an accurate diagnosis, all without human intervention.

AI techniques are showing very promising results. In addition to diagnosis, its application includes aspects related to Alzheimer's prognosis, predicting how neurodegeneration will evolve over time; the monitoring of treatments, aiming to select the most appropriate therapeutic option and bringing us closer to personalized medicine; the optimization of the patient selection process for clinical trials, essential for the development of new drugs; and, finally, it allows the detection of people at high risk of developing the disease, which is key in order to establish preventive measures that can delay its onset.

How do we use Artificial Intelligence in Ace?

Early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is crucial both from the patient's point of view, where different therapeutic options can be applied and future decisions can be guided, and from the point of view of research, in order to study the pathophysiological mechanisms of the disease.

In this context, evidence suggests that the analysis of spontaneous speech can be very useful in predicting the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Therefore, speech analysis using AI is one of the lines of research we are working on at Ace in the framework of the Tartaglia project. To this end, we are analyzing data generated by users in three simple tests: describing an image, talking about an experience, and listing animals. Through the information collected, and using AI techniques, we are analyzing the predictive ability of spontaneous speech in the early detection of Alzheimer's disease.

We are also working on AI systems that can help us in the detection, prognosis and treatment of the disease. One of our researches with the best prospects is the combination of genetic data, neuropsychological/neuropsychiatric assessments and AI techniques to anticipate accelerated cognitive decline. That is, we are trying to see if a patient with a certain associated genetic risk who starts to present alterations in different neuropsychological tests, is going to present a more rapid decline in cognitive functions, and what factors contribute to this cognitive decline.


Role of Artificial Intelligence in the decision-making process within the clinical field

Finally, we are developing AI models capable of identifying individuals at risk of developing Alzheimer's from free online tools such as Facememory. This tool allows us to detect people with a high risk of developing Alzheimer's several years before the onset of the disease, a crucial moment since we are still in time to establish preventive measures to slow the progression of the disease.

A great road ahead

The continuous advances in the field of Artificial Intelligence and the need for new tools to anticipate and predict the evolution of the disease mean that this type of techniques have the potential to revolutionize the current management of neurodegenerative diseases, bringing us closer to a personalized medicine adapted to the individual characteristics of each patient.

Despite the great potential of Artificial Intelligence, one of its main limitations is that it requires large volumes of data to learn from them. However, at Ace Alzheimer Center Barcelona we have a large amount of data collected over many years by an excellent medical and research staff. All this allows us to be at the forefront in developing AI systems that in the future can predict the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease, as well as generate useful knowledge that will allow us to better understand the disease, and allowing us to move towards a cure.


Researcher at Ace Alzheimer Center Barcelona

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