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Research pioneers AI-based early Alzheimer’s detection tool

26 Mar 2024 Research pioneers AI-based early Alzheimer’s detection tool By OUR CORRESPONDENT

Muscat – A research team from Oman has developed a sophisticated deep learning model designed to predict the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages. The pioneering work, led by Dr Abraham Varghese, Senior Lecturer, Information Technology Department of University of Technology and Applied Sciences, Muscat, marks a crucial step forward in the early diagnosis of this debilitating disease.

The research has been facilitated by the Block Funding Programme of Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation.

Varghese informed that the team has successfully pinpointed critical variables for Alzheimer’s prediction, leading to the creation of a predictive model and a web application. These developments come as the world grapples with the rising prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, expected to surge from 55mn to 139mn affected individuals by 2050. The urgency for early diagnostic tools is palpable, particularly in Oman, where Alzheimer’s cases are increasingly being reported.

The project aimed to harness AI to develop a diagnostic tool that integrates psychological and clinical data, including MRI scans, to provide early warnings of the disease. By incorporating Explainable AI (XAI) techniques, the model offers clear insights into its decision-making processes, aiding medical professionals in understanding the rationale behind its predictions.

The research focused on identifying Alzheimer’s at the Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) stage, crucial for preventing the disease’s progression. Analysis of MRI scans, alongside psychological and demographic data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), has been central to this endeavour.

A user-friendly web application (https://alzheimer-disease-prediction.streamlit.app/) has been launched, allowing healthcare practitioners to leverage the model for personalised patient care. This tool represents a significant leap towards merging AI advancements with practical healthcare applications, potentially revolutionising Alzheimer’s disease management.

Varghese advocates an integrated approach to Alzheimer’s diagnosis, emphasising the importance of combining clinical, genetic, demographic, neuroimaging and psychological data, and calls for a synergistic partnership between AI researchers and medical professionals to create AI tools that meet clinical needs and prioritise patient-centred care.

The team’s next goal is development of a ‘virtual psychologist’ to automate psychological assessments, further enhancing the tool’s accessibility and effectiveness in early Alzheimer’s detection. This innovative approach promises to make early detection and intervention more feasible across various healthcare settings.

Published in the peer-reviewed journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia in 2023, the research was conducted by Dr Varghese with Dr Vinu Sherimon, Dr Ben George, Aaisha Khalid Mohammed al Hinai and Dr Prashanth Gouda.

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