AI is going to look for signs of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases in patient’s eyes

Artificial intelligence is going to change everything, because it can analyse vast amounts of data very quickly and very accurately. It can also pay attention to the detail in a way that humans cannot match. Now scientists at Newcastle University want to employ AI to diagnose neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s from eye scans.

Retina is the only part of the central nervous system we can see directly from the outside. Image credit: che via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)

How eyes are connected to the brain? Well, eyes are the mirror of the soul. On a more serious note, the retina at the back of the eye is pretty much the only place in the body where we can see the central nervous system directly from the outside. Modern technology allows taking high-quality pictures of the retina, which can then be analyzed in order to detect common eye diseases. Scientists think that there is potential to do much more than that – they want to use AI to capture signs of neurological disease in the images of retina. They hope to be able to catch Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases early in this way.

How is it going to work? Well, as we already established, the retina is the only part of the central nervous system we can see directly from the outside. Neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, encourage deterioration of the central nervous system. Although retinas are very small, it is likely that signs of that deterioration are visible early in the disease’s progression. This new method that scientists are about to start testing, involves Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scanning. A huge number of OCT images is going to be uploaded into an AI system, which is going to train it to recognize early signs of neurological diseases. Because Ai is able to scan through a lot of data very quickly, scientists say that it will become one of the more valuable tools in medical research.

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive, said: “The NHS is determined to take advantage of the artificial intelligence revolution and ensure we are harnessing the latest and best technologies to improve care and save more lives. The technologies we’re funding today have the potential to transform how we deliver services such as screening tests, cancer treatment and stroke care for thousands of patients right across the country.”

The big advantage of this technology is ability to detect diseases early before symptoms actually show up. We still cannot cure neurological diseases, but some treatments do exist that could slow down the progression of these diseases. This means that early detection is absolutely crucial.

We are going to have to wait and see if AI is able to detect signs of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s in a patient’s eyes. This would offer new opportunities in terms of diagnosis and early treatment.


Source: Newcastle University

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