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IBM and Pfizer designing AI model to predict onset of neurological diseases

Published on 23/10/20 at 01:08pm
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IBM has partnered with Pfizer to design an artificial intelligence model to predict the eventual onset of neurological diseases – mainly Alzheimer’s – seven years before symptoms appear.

This research was published in The Lancet eClinical Medicine and the scientist used small samples of the clinical verbal test data from the Framingham Heart Study which is research that has tracked the health of more than 5,000 people since 1948. This was used to train AI models. 

The AI model was then verified against data samples from health individuals who either did or did not develop the disease later in life.

One of the examples they cited in [The Lancet] was their algorithm’s analysis of the speech sample from a 65-year-old participant and predicted that they would develop Alzheimer’s by the age of 85. The researchers were then able to check records to determine if and when a diagnosis had actually occurred. The researchers believe that the outcomes of their research will be significantly better than those based on clinical studies so far. Unlike past studies into these disease areas, the new ones focus on individuals that started to show symptoms or had a genetic history associated with the disease and only examined healthy individuals with no other risk factors. 

IBM released a statement on the research, saying: “In partnership with our colleagues from Pfizer, we saw the potential to develop AI models which – if continued to be trained on expanded, robust and diverse datasets – could one day be used to develop methods to more accurately predict Alzheimer's disease within a large population, including individuals with no current indicators of the disease, no family history of the disease, or signs of cognitive decline.

“Ultimately, we hope this research will take root and aid in the future development of a more simple, straightforward and easily accessible tool to help clinicians assess a patient's risk of Alzheimer's disease, through the analysis of speech and language in conjunction with a number of other facets of an individual's health and biometrics.”

There is currently no known cure for Alzheimer's disease. It is estimated that up to 5.5 million people are currently living with the disease in the US alone, and some research suggests that it is the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. 

Conor Kavanagh

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