AI can ‘plug the gaps in the brains’ of dementia sufferers


Artificial intelligent technology should be used to “fill in the gaps” in the brains of people with dementia, said the head of the Alzheimer’s Society.

Kate Lee, the charity’s executive director, said programs that recognize faces, speak forgotten words or help people take care of pets and their homes should be used more.

There are an estimated 944,000 people living with dementia in the UK and that number is expected to rise to over a million by 2030 and over 1.6 million by 2050.

But most dementia technology is used to track people rather than help them live their lives.

Ms Lee wrote for The Telegraph: “Just protecting people with dementia is not enough. We need to be much more ambitious – and harness technology to help people live the lives they want, pursue their hobbies and friends, and maintain their confidence.

“The kind of technology we’ve seen in dementia so far falls far short of the standard we use in our daily lives – Alexa, Spotify and TikTok use cutting-edge software that has really transformed the way we live.

“It’s incredible that at a time when facial recognition technology is probing you to tag your brother in a Facebook photo, people with dementia can’t benefit from the same technology that gently reminds them that the person occupying the room enters, her daughter is Kate.

“With machine learning and artificial intelligence embedded in everything we do, from text recognition to driving, there is a real and exciting opportunity to harness this technological revolution to benefit people with dementia and help transform the Filling in gaps in her brain as her condition progresses.

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“This could be the difference between keeping someone safe or helping them live the life they want.”

The charity has partnered with Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC) to create the £4million Longitude Prize on Dementia to encourage inventors to find new ways to help people cope with neurodegenerative diseases help.

Organizers said projects could include Netflix-like platforms that could provide recommendations on what to buy in stores, or people or places to visit.

Or facial recognition technology could learn non-verbal communication from dementia patients so it can offer the right word or contact a loved one.


Why artificial intelligence is the next big leap in the fight against dementia

By Kate Lee, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Society

Dementia is one of the most significant global health challenges we face today. It is the biggest killer in the UK and has 900,000 people living with dementia, rising to 1.6 million by 2040. My mother is one of them.

Almost everyone you meet has a connection to dementia; a parent, grandparent, friend they found heartbreaking to watch as they crumbled before their very eyes. It’s hard to deny that dementia is devastating, it robs people of their memories and their identity. But we are not without hope. In the last 20 years, we have seen numerous breakthroughs in the care and treatment of dementia on a scale not seen in previous generations, from research that has helped us understand its causes to revolutionary studies for potential treatments.

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We know treatments are coming that could be life-changing for some with dementia, but what about those who are living with it now? I have heard that someone who is diagnosed with cancer is afraid of death – if they are diagnosed with dementia they are afraid of life.

One of the most exciting and accessible advances has been the rapid growth of dementia technology – smart, electronic devices that have already proven valuable in improving the care of people with dementia.

Remote monitoring devices that would allow GPs to step in and prevent falls or infections are coming, meaning more people should be able to stay safe at home for longer, and location tracking apps that give loved ones peace of mind are already being used all over the country.

But just protecting people with dementia is not enough. We need to be much more ambitious – and harness technology to help people live the lives they want, pursue their hobbies and friends, and maintain their confidence.

The kind of technology we’ve seen in dementia so far falls far short of the standard we use in our daily lives – Alexa, Spotify and TikTok use cutting-edge software that has transformed the way we live. We need the same breakthrough approach to dementia technology, where the promise and possibility of a technological revolution in the lives of people living with this disease is enormous.

We know that existing technologies are often too complicated or unintuitive for people with dementia. We need a different approach that not only addresses thinking and memory issues, but also offers workarounds. Even for the partners and caregivers of many people with dementia, technology can be a struggle. Many of them today come from a generation where technology was not a part of life when they were growing up. My mother, Barbara, was diagnosed with dementia in 2007 and we struggled to balance her safety with maintaining her independence and ability to do the things she always had. We didn’t really use much technology other than FaceTime, in part because my dad, as her caregiver, struggled with the use of technology as it just wasn’t easy to use. Why can’t we design an iPad that, when picked up, simply responds to the motion sensor and knows to call your child?

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With machine learning and artificial intelligence embedded in everything we do, from text recognition to driving, there is a real and exciting opportunity to harness this technological revolution to benefit people with dementia and help fill the gaps in their close brain her condition is progressing. This could be the difference between protecting someone or helping them live the life they want.

Can you imagine a world where being diagnosed with dementia doesn’t mean you’ll one day have to give up your driver’s license because self-driving car software (which already exists) can step in if you’re having trouble? Or where a ‘smart’ plug sends a message to your kids/caregivers when you’ve boiled and poured the kettle to confirm you’ve had your morning cup of tea?



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