AI tool could speed up dementia diagnosis

July 11, 2023
A new digital tool that is able to look for early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease more quickly and efficiently developed by University of Sheffield researchers with funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research.

A new AI tool that could help doctors assess the early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s more quickly and efficiently, has been developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield.

The system, known as CognoSpeak, uses a virtual agent displayed on a screen to engage a patient in a conversation. It asks memory-probing questions inspired by those used in outpatient consultations and conducts cognitive tests, such as picture descriptions and verbal fluency tests.

The tool then uses artificial intelligence and speech technology to analyze language and speech patterns to look for signs of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders.

The system is being designed to work in between primary and secondary care. This means that once fully rolled out, a GP could refer a person with memory complaints to use the technology. CognoSpeak would send the test results back to the GP and then they would decide whether they need to refer the patient to a memory clinic for further assessment.

CognoSpeak can be accessed through a web browser - meaning patients are able to take the test in the comfort of their home via a computer, laptop or tablet, rather than having to wait for a hospital appointment to take a pen-and-paper-based assessment, which can often cause undue stress and anxiety.

Early trials have shown the technology is as accurate at predicting Alzheimer’s as the current pen-and-paper-based tests used to assess or screen for cognitive, memory or thinking impairments. The team has demonstrated accuracies of 90 percent for distinguishing people with Alzheimer’s from people that are cognitively healthy.

University of Sheffield release on Newswise