A new dementia test is currently being trialed in the United Kingdom with the potential of detecting symptoms of the illness in just five minutes.
The National Health Service has teamed up with London-based medical tech firm Cognetivity Ltd to develop a "quick and easy" test that can identify initial signs of the disease. Patients are shown different images using an iPad and then researchers measure their responses.
While there is no known cure for dementia as of the moment, doctors believe diagnosing the condition early can help them develop effective therapies.
5-Minute iPad Dementia Test
To check symptoms of dementia, doctors have to conduct several tests to measure patients' attention span, concentration, language skills, and memory.
However, the results can sometimes be influenced by the subjects' education level and whether they have already undertaken some testing before.
The new iPad-based test was designed to serve as a single diagnostic for early dementia detection. It makes use of artificial intelligence accurately gauge brain function in sufferers.
Patients will be shown 100 different photographs using an iPad. The images will only appear on the screen for a brief moment. Researchers will then asked participants whether a particular image showed an animal or not.
Some of the photos will have depictions of animals, though they will not be too obvious. Meanwhile, others will not show any animals at all.
The researchers will identify differences in how fast the participants were able to answer and how accurate those answers were. They will use the data to detect potential abnormalities in the patients and recommend therapies long before the onset of any memory loss.
Sina Habibi, Cognetivity CEO, explained the concept behind the company's five-minute dementia test.
"Every image is different from the others in terms of its complexity and level of surprise," Habibi said. "We play with lots of mathematical characteristics of the image so that every one is a unique [set of] stimuli."
Developing an effective dementia test has been a personal quest for Habibi, who lost a grandmother to the illness.
Researchers hope that the iPad-based dementia test can help scientists gain new insights about the disease. This might prove instrumental in the discovery of an effective cure for dementia.
Ongoing Trials For The New iPad-Based Diagnostic
The South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust are now conducting trials of the new dementia test. This will be followed by larger testings in Devon, Sussex, and northeast London next month.
If trial results prove positive, the iPad-based diagnostic could be rolled out to the rest of the UK by next year.
Carol Routledge, research director at Alzheimer's Research UK, noted how fast and easy the new dementia test can be done. She said it targeted areas of the brain particularly affected by the early onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Routledge recognized the potential of the diagnostic to identify symptoms of the illness before patients suffer from thinking and memory problems.
She also discussed how AI techniques can be used to help improve how doctors are able to detect diseases associated with dementia, making sure that patients are given a timely and accurate assessment of their conditions.