Imagine using an app to discover that a child as young as a year-old had autism. Alternatively, envision an app that can diagnose dementia years before it can usually be diagnosed, just by analyzing a senior’s speaking voice. Both may soon be reality.
Researchers are hopeful that doctors can use their cost-effective apps to diagnose both diseases earlier when treatment is most effective. All those things and more are now available thanks to artificial intelligence.
How Can Artificial Intelligence Test for Autism?
Most people with autism have trouble making eye contact. Therefore, inventors of the RightEye GeoPref Autism Test have developed a test that watches the eye movements in children as young as one.
In this test, children between 12 months and 40 months are shown two videos. One video has human faces while the other shows geometric shapes. Most children will spend more time watching the one with the human faces. That is not true, however, of children who have autism. The test takes just 90 seconds, so completing it is fast.
The Bethesda Maryland based development team found that their artificial intelligence program correctly diagnosed 45 percent of children with autism. The program also referred another 40 percent for further testing.
Doctors believe that when therapy begins at a very early age the brain can be taught to rewire itself around parts of the brain that do not work properly. The therapy focuses on teaching the young child to do things that come naturally to most babies, such as making eye contact.
Children can also be taught social interaction skills allowing them to fit in better with their peers when they get ready for school. Therefore, the sooner these conditions can be diagnosed, the higher the chances of recovery. This is why artificial intelligence has such a huge potential in this area of care.
How Can Computers be Used to Diagnose Dementia?
While doctors have very few drugs to treat Dementia and Alzheimer’s, the ones that are available for this disease require very early intervention. That is why many doctors are very excited about the program being developed by the Canada-based WinterLight team.
The researchers behind it claim that over 80 percent of people who go on to develop Alzheimer’s start out with changes in their speech patterns. They have proven that such changes can be seen in a person because they start using overly simple words, speak more slowly, use less complex sentence structures, and have trouble identifying the main idea in a picture.
The program they developed analyzes snippets of speech that are one to five minutes long . It looks for the syntactic complexity, acoustics, lexical diversity and semantic content of the snippets. The program is designed to give objective data in an area that can only be speculated about right now.
Doctor Rudzicz, assistant professor at the publically funded University of Toronto, says
Our automated approach will provide an opportunity to give people easier, more cost-effective and accurate access to initial dementia screening
He also says that the program will allow doctors to test for changes and see if the medicine is having the desired effects.
As the average age in the world continues to grow older, it will become even more important to screen patients quickly using cost-effective methods. This is the ultimate aim of the research undertaken by the teams of scientists behind these AI-powered scanning programs.
The Take-Away from All This
Researchers are developing applications using artificial intelligence that will allow them to test for diseases sooner, using big data from quantitative results. The program developed by RightEye will allow doctors to diagnose autism as early as the age of 12 months, when intervention is most effective.
On the other end of the spectrum, the program developed by WinterLight is designed to help doctors correctly diagnose dementia earlier, when drugs are most effective.
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