Alzheimers and other neurodegenerative diseases are often not caught very early on, making them harder for doctors to treat. However, word has it that new technology is being developed which could allow us to catch the disease before symptoms progress. Researchers from the Early Detection of Neurodegenerative diseases (EdoN) in the UK are looking into a device that can test for Alzheimer’s Dementia (AD) earlier using wearable technology.
You may already have a wearable smart device that uses digital recordings like your step count or your heart rate to help you understand your body better. Researchers from EdoN suggest that wearables could give us just as much insight into how likely a person is to get AD.
Wearable devices can record information about a person’s gait (the way someone walks), their movements, heart rate, sleep patterns, and more. Research has shown that even inexpensive sensors can pick up changes in the way a person behaves or walks. Factors like these are important indicators of the onset of AD.
The researchers are looking to take an integrative approach to detecting AD by using new wearable technology along with traditional technologies that are commonly used. In a press release, Professor Chris Holmes, health program director at EdoN, explained, “Artificial intelligence has the potential to transform the learning opportunities from large-scale data studies such as EdoN by integrating information from multiple sources. We will use AI to deliver new insights into the early signals of disease by combining digital data measurements with traditional sources such as brain imaging and memory tests.”
The folks at EdoN suggest that ongoing readings of a person’s heart rate, sleep patterns, speech and language patterns, and even pupil movements will help them more able to determine a person’s likelihood of contracting the disease. For example, things that will occur in the earliest stages of dementia include changes in walking speed, stride, and symmetry (a person might become clumsier). In the press release, Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, explained, “Identifying the very earliest changes in these diseases would transform research efforts today, giving us the best chance of stopping these diseases before the symptoms of dementia start to get in the way of life.”
EdoN is a major part of the UKs goal for using artificial intelligence and data collection to prevent chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s. Though initiated in the UK, EdoN is a global initiative, and it’s even gotten funding from none other than Bill Gates! For now, the estimated time span for such a device to be available on the market is three years. How exciting is that?
Here’s to a brighter future for the diagnosing and treatment of dementia!