The headline gets the dreaded question mark because it’s almost too good to be true. But researchers are claiming that a new program can analyze brain scans to determine which patients are suffering from pre-symptomatic cases of cognitive decline.
“Through an analysis of fMRI brain scan images taken from 138 people, the new algorithm achieved an accuracy rate of over 99 percent. It performed better in terms of accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity than existing methods, the researchers report.
In particular, the method is able to pick out signs of mild cognitive impairment or MCI – which is the step between cognitive decline (as normally associated with aging) and Alzheimer’s. Often, MCI won’t come with any physical symptoms that can be spotted.”
Now the less-good news: the analysis requires fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans, which are less commonplace than standard MRI scanners. This means they’ll be less accessible, and may not be available until the patient is already suffering from visible symptoms. But as fMRIs become more common, this could develop into a proactive test to identify cognitive issues before they become debilitating.
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