Screening, support, treatment… new technologies track Alzheimer’s

This Wednesday is World Alzheimer’s Day. Technology plays a huge role, whether it is the fastest possible detection of a disease or the support of patients.

Detection, support or even treatment. Technology shows promise for Alzheimer’s disease. First quickly check if possible. Purpose: to delay the development of the disease. It is estimated that 50% of patients are undiagnosed and therefore do not know they are sick. This is where artificial intelligence comes into play.

Impressive detection methods

Researchers at Boston University, for example, are working on a tool that would be very effective at detecting early signs of illness by simply recording our voice. Today, the patient is offered a battery of tests in the form of questions aimed at assessing cognitive functions (memory, speech, understanding, etc.). This is tedious and time consuming. With this tool, there is no need to go to the doctor, all you need to do is talk in front of your computer or smartphone and the machine will be able to detect cognitive impairments on its own and alert you that you have to go to the doctor.

Another tool the University of Tokyo is working on and published in the scientific journal Aging is an algorithm that can find certain warning signs of dementia from our facial expressions. The machine managed to detect the disease without any other clues. The interest is that these are simple, reliable and inexpensive tools to set up, because all you need is a camera, such as a smartphone. They would allow mass screening campaigns to be organized. And then comes the analysis of medical images. The latest tool that analyzes brain scans could even detect the presence of the disease six years before a clinical diagnosis is made.

Towards a cure for Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that currently cannot be cured. But the ambitions are big, including due to the potential of neuroimplants. Several projects of electronic chips that could be placed directly into the brain to combat neurodegenerative diseases, from Alzheimer’s disease to Parkinson’s disease, as well as cognitive loss associated with old age, loss of attention. One of the projects is called Kiwi: it is a chip the size of a grain of rice, weighing two grams. The Ni2o startup working on this was founded by an Oxford professor and launched in France as part of the Brain and Spinal Cord Institute.

This implant is placed into the brain through the nose, and it repairs damaged areas, restores malfunctioning brain functions with very weak electrical impulses. Purpose: to activate certain neurotransmitters to compensate for the loss of certain cognitive abilities. These impulses will reduce or even prevent tremor in the case of Parkinson’s disease or memory loss in the case of Alzheimer’s disease. But be careful not to create false hopes before the hour: it’s all still in the realm of the prototype.

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Soft toy robots soothe patients

Pending the development of all this, we must do our best to support patients on a daily basis. In these cases, robots can help. In particular, “plush robots” that look like large stuffed animals but are actually robots for therapeutic purposes. Paro baby seal, stuffed with sensors, reacts to touch, light, sound. He recognizes when his name is called, he moves, reacts to petting and will try to repeat the same movement so that he can be petted again like a pet. Already used in some hospitals and nursing homes, it has the ability to calm the sick, soothe anxiety and irritation.

Qoobo is a ball of hair, without a head, but with a tail like a cat … A kind of animated pillow that purrs, reacts to touch, the heart beats like a small pet. In hospitals and nursing homes, it will be used to relieve stress in patients and, in particular, to stimulate Alzheimer’s patients. It is also used to support autistic children.