This Wednesday is World Alzheimer’s Day. Technology has a huge role to play, whether it’s detecting disease as quickly as possible or supporting patients.
detection, support or even treatment. Technology shows promise in Alzheimer’s disease. First screening quickly, if possible. Goal: delaying the development of the disease. It is estimated that 50% of patients are undiagnosed, so they do not know they have the disease. This is where artificial intelligence comes in.
Impressive detection methods
For example, researchers at Boston University are working on a tool that will make it possible to detect early signs of disease very effectively by simply recording our voice. Today, the patient is given a battery of tests in the form of questions aimed at assessing cognitive performance (memory, language, comprehension, etc.). It is tiring and time consuming. With this device, there is no need to go to the doctor, just talk in front of your computer or smartphone and the device will be able to independently detect cognitive deficits and warn you that you need to go to the doctor.
Another tool the University of Tokyo is working on, published in the scientific journal Aging, is an algorithm that can detect certain warning signs of dementia through our facial expressions. The machine managed to detect the disease without any other signs. Interestingly, they are simple, reliable and cheap tools to set up, as all you need is a camera, such as a smartphone. They will make it possible to organize massive screening campaigns. And then there is the analysis of medical images. The final tool, which analyzes brain scans, will be able to detect the presence of the disease six years before a clinical diagnosis is made.
Towards a cure for Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a disease that cannot be cured at this time. But ambitions are high, especially thanks to the potential of neural implants. Several project electronic chips that can be placed directly in the brain to fight neurodegenerative diseases, from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s, but also the loss of cognitive skills associated with aging, loss of attention. One of the projects is called Kiwi: it’s a chip the size of a grain of rice, weighing two grams. The startup working on it, Ni2o, was founded by an Oxford professor and started in France as part of the Brain and Spinal Cord Institute.
This implant is placed on the brain through the nose and it restores the damaged areas, restoring the malfunctioning brain functions with very small electrical impulses. The goal: to reactivate certain neurotransmitters to compensate for the loss of certain cognitive abilities. These pulses make it possible to reduce or even prevent tremors in the case of Parkinson’s disease or memory loss in the case of Alzheimer’s. But be careful not to get false hopes before the hour: it’s all still in the realm of prototypes.
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Soft toy robots to soothe patients
While we wait for all of this to unfold, we must do everything we can to help patients every day. In this case, robots can help. In particular, “robot-plushs”, which look like large stuffed animals, but are actually robots for therapeutic purposes. Paro baby ring loaded with sensors reacts to touch, light, sound. He recognizes when his name is called, he moves, he reacts when he is petted, and he will try to repeat the same movement to be petted again, just like a pet. Already used in some hospitals and nursing homes, it has calming properties for the sick, calming anxiety and irritability.
Qoobo is a ball of hair, without a head but with a cat-like tail… a kind of animated pillow that purrs, reacts when you touch it, its heart beats like the heart of a small pet. In hospitals and nursing homes, it will be used to relieve stress in patients and especially stimulate Alzheimer’s patients. It is also used to support autistic children.