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Published on: September 24, 2015
by Abigail Klein Leichman for The Jewish Voice:
IBM Israel has a prototype smartphone technology to detect dementia at an early stage by analyzing voice and speech patterns. This technology has shown an 85 percent accuracy rate in preliminary trials.
First described last year in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, the Israeli, French and Dutch Dem@Care project seeks to enable diagnosis through a series of tests conducted using a smartphone or tablet computer in only seven minutes.
Subjects are asked to perform cognitive tasks such as counting backwards, describing a picture and identifying words that start with a certain letter. Their answers are recorded and analyzed using a series of algorithms developed at the IBM Research Lab in Haifa.
If this app were to be commercialized, it could represent a major advance in detecting dementia early. Currently there is no other diagnostic tool than psychological and psychiatric tests along with clinical examinations. It could also be helpful in diagnosing other brain disorders that typically affect speech, such as Parkinson’s disease.
Aharon Satt, a speech technology expert at the IBM Research Lab in Haifa leading the Dem@Care project, told Haaretz that the idea is to help identify dementia while there may still be time to treat the condition.
“We know there is no cure for the disease yet but there is significance in early detection. If we catch it at an early stage, we can treat its symptoms, whether by drug therapy that improves the function of neurotransmitters in the brain or other methods, or by starting psychological and behavioral therapy for the patient and those around him,” said Satt.
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