New AI system helps early detection of dementia

It detects the signs and progression of dementia in a patient’s MRI scans.

Brain degenerative diseases Parkinson, Alzheimer, puzzle
Brain degenerative diseases Parkinson, Alzheimer, puzzle Image: Shutterstock

One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is shrinkage of brain tissue, especially around the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with the consolidation of short and long-term memory. Understanding how the volume of the hippocampus and also how the total volume and texture of brain tissue changes as the disease advances can help in detection and prognosis.

Now, the Eurostars project BRAINIQ has developed software that uses artificial intelligence to detect the signs and progression of dementia in a patient’s MRI scans. Scientists used pioneering algorithmic analysis to get as much information as possible out of non-invasive imaging methods such as MRI scans.

AI software to check brain health
AI software to check brain health

Project coordinator Professor Wiro Niessen, Scientific Director of Quantib said, “The potential of this approach has been known for quite some time, but the challenge was to develop robust software that can be used in hospitals and clinics. It’s one thing to test this approach in a laboratory, but each hospital will have different MRI scanners, different imaging processes, and different software. We have to make sure our software works in all these different settings and still produce accurate results.”

Niessen said, “The success of the project was down to the collaboration between the different partners. We have a lot of expertise at Quantib, but we are primarily interested in volume and shape of the hippocampus while Biomediq has expertise on the texture of brain matter. In the end, it is a combination of features that provide the most information.”

“We already see enormous interest in using artificial intelligence to improve the diagnosis and prognosis of dementia. It is difficult to predict how large this market will be, but most estimates suggest we may be looking at a market as large as a billion euro in the long-term.”

The software has been certified by the American FDA, received a European CE mark and is already installed on MRI scanners made by GE Healthcare.

“Eurostars funding has been instrumental in helping us develop the software,” says Niessen, “without it we wouldn’t be in a position to transform how dementia is diagnosed and treated in the future.”

The innovation was developed through successful collaboration between Quantib and the Erasmus University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, and Biomediq in Denmark.