Revolutionary AI Breakthrough Enables Early Alzheimer’s Detection Using Smartphones

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  • Researchers are developing a machine learning (ML) model for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia.
  • The ML model can distinguish Alzheimer’s patients from healthy individuals with 70-75% accuracy.
  • Early detection of Alzheimer’s is challenging due to subtle symptoms and confusion with memory-related issues.
  • Mobile phones could be used as a simple screening tool for early indicators, leading to earlier treatment and intervention.
  • The ML model focuses on language-agnostic acoustic and linguistic speech features.
  • It has the potential to be used across different languages.
  • A screening tool incorporating the ML model would not replace healthcare professionals but could aid in early detection and telehealth services.
  • Speech patterns alone could be used to triage patients.
  • Common speech characteristics in Alzheimer’s patients include slower speech, more pauses, shorter words, and reduced speech intelligibility.
  • The ML model offers a user-friendly experience, where users speak into the tool to obtain a prediction.
  • Similar AI models have been developed for detecting other psychiatric disorders.
  • Advancements in ML and AI can amplify clinical processes, inform treatments, and manage diseases more effectively.

Main AI News:

Advancements in machine learning (ML) are propelling researchers toward achieving an earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia. Their objective is to develop an ML model that can eventually be transformed into a simple screening tool accessible to anyone with a smartphone. Remarkably, the model demonstrated the ability to differentiate between Alzheimer’s patients and healthy individuals with an accuracy rate ranging from 70 to 75 percent—a promising breakthrough for the over 747,000 Canadians affected by Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Detecting Alzheimer’s dementia in its early stages presents a challenge due to the subtle nature of the symptoms, which can often be mistaken for memory-related issues typically associated with advanced age. Nevertheless, as the researchers highlight, the earlier potential issues are identified, the sooner patients can take appropriate action.

Traditionally, diagnosing brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s requires extensive lab work and medical imaging, which is time-consuming, expensive, and typically not accessible during the early stages of the disease.

However, Eleni Stroulia, a professor in the Department of Computing Science and a key contributor to the development of the model, explains the potential impact of using mobile phones as an early indicator: it would enhance the patient-physician relationship, enable early intervention, and even facilitate simple interventions at home using mobile devices to slow down the progression of the disease.

It is important to note that while a screening tool would not replace the expertise of healthcare professionals, it would greatly aid in early detection and provide a convenient means to identify potential concerns via telehealth, particularly for patients facing geographic or linguistic barriers to accessing local services.

Zehra Shah, a master’s student in the Department of Computing Science and the first author of the paper, emphasizes the potential of using speech analysis to triage patients solely based on speech patterns. By focusing on language-agnostic acoustic and linguistic speech features rather than specific words, the research group expands the computational possibilities beyond language barriers, making it applicable across different languages. This shift in approach, as Stroulia points out, allows for a more powerful computational solution, transcending the limitations of previous versions.

The researchers began by analyzing speech characteristics commonly observed in patients with Alzheimer’s dementia, as noted by doctors. They found that these individuals tend to speak more slowly, exhibit more pauses or disruptions in their speech, use shorter words, and often have reduced speech intelligibility. The team then developed ways to translate these characteristics into speech features that the ML model could screen for. While the focus was initially on English and Greek speakers, Shah suggests that this technology has the potential for use in various languages.

Although the model itself is complex, the eventual user experience of the tool incorporating it is designed to be straightforward. Users simply speak into the tool, which then performs an analysis and provides a prediction: whether the person has Alzheimer’s or not. This information can then be shared with healthcare professionals to determine the best course of action for the individual.

Russ Greiner, a professor in the Department of Computing Science and a contributor to the paper, highlights the potential of such tools not only in the field of Alzheimer’s but also in computational psychiatry. Greiner and Stroulia lead the computational psychiatry research group at the U of A, which has developed similar AI models and tools to detect psychiatric disorders such as PTSD, schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder.

Stroulia concludes by emphasizing the significance of any advancement that can amplify clinical processes, inform treatments, and enable earlier disease management with reduced costs. The potential impact of incorporating ML and AI into the field of healthcare is profound, with the ability to transform the way diseases are detected, diagnosed, and treated, ultimately leading to improved patient outcomes.


The development of a machine learning model for earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia and its potential transformation into a simple screening tool has significant implications for the market. The ability to accurately differentiate between Alzheimer’s patients and healthy individuals with 70-75% accuracy opens up new opportunities for healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, and technology companies operating in the healthcare sector. The integration of this technology into mobile devices allows for convenient and widespread access, potentially reaching a large market of individuals concerned about cognitive health.

Furthermore, the language-agnostic approach of the ML model enhances its applicability across different languages and regions, expanding its market potential globally. With the potential to streamline the diagnostic process, facilitate early intervention, and improve patient outcomes, this advancement in ML-driven healthcare solutions presents promising prospects for market growth and innovation in the Alzheimer’s diagnostics market and beyond.



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