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Computers May Help Spot Alzheimer's

Computers Dig Through Brain Scans for Signs of Alzheimer's Disease; Goal Is Earlier Detection
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 27, 2008 -- Scientists have created a computer program that may streamline early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

"The advantage of using computers is that they prove cheaper, faster, and more accurate than the current method of diagnosis," Professor Richard Frackowiak, MD, PhD, says in a news release. He works at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London.

Frackowiak's team built a computer program that analyzes a patient's magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans for telltale signs of Alzheimer's disease.

In preliminary tests, the researchers challenged the computer program to analyze brain scans. The scientists already knew which participants had Alzheimer's disease; the point was to see if the computer program could pick out the Alzheimer's patients based solely on brain scans.

The computer identified nearly 96% of 34 people who had Alzheimer's disease.

For an extra challenge, the researchers tasked the computer program with spotting 33 mild cases of Alzheimer's disease out of 90 MRI brain scans. The computer succeeded 81% of the time when it looked at the entire brain scans. It did slightly better when focused only on certain brain areas.

Frackowiak's team reports the findings in the March edition of Brain.

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