New research showing artificial intelligence can detect Alzheimer’s brain changes almost a decade before symptoms emerge has been welcomed by the manager of Fernhill House.   

The study, carried out at the University of Bari in Italy, saw researchers develop an algorithm which can discern structural changes in the brain caused by the neurodegenerative disease.   

And while there is currently no cure, an earlier diagnosis means that if taken earlier mitigating drugs could be more effective, enabling sufferers to slow the progression of the disease.   

The news has been greeted as a positive step in the fight to minimise the impact of Alzheimer’s by Peta Mandleberg, manager of Fernhill House which has a vibrant approach to helping people living with this and other forms of dementia.      

“This is another step forward in the quest to improve the lives of elderly people. We have a vibrant and innovative approach to living in later life – with a packed programme of activities and outings and unusual facilities such as an indoor potting shed, a ‘real’ pub, a shop and 1950s and 60s themed games and staff dressed casually in vintage clothes.   

“We also have a beautifully equipped children’s nursery populated with lifelike dolls which residents can ‘adopt’. This doll therapy can be a very powerful way of helping people with dementia manage their condition – with some very touching outcomes.”       

The AI was taught to distinguish between the MRI scans of healthy brains and those containing sticky beta amyloid plaques which are present in Alzheimer’s sufferers. It successfully differentiated between the two sorts of brain with 86 per cent accuracy and could tell the difference between the healthy brains and those with a mild cognitive impairment and who then went on to develop Alzheimer’s within two and a half to nine years with 84 per cent accuracy.   

The research team is now planning to trial the AI system with other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.