Skip to main content

How Artificial Intelligence is Changing Alzheimer’s Disease Research


Haga clic aquí para leer este boletín en español.  

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has transitioned from being a futuristic concept to a daily reality. It powers virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa, and helps inform your Google search results.

Now, AI is playing an increasingly vital role in the medical field. It fuels drug development and discovery, and helps facilitate disease diagnosis and prediction.

Furthermore, AI has exciting applications in Alzheimer’s disease research, from early disease detection to clinical trial design.

The Importance of Early Detection


Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition, meaning symptoms worsen over time. Identifying Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages is crucial for helping people access appropriate treatments and resources.

A type of AI called deep learning can aid in early disease detection. Deep learning is a method through which machines learn to recognize patterns and make decisions based on large quantities of data.

For example, deep learning tools can analyze large amounts of brain imaging data, and can learn to identify subtle changes in brain structure or function that are associated with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

A 2022 article in The Lancet Digital Health describes a deep learning model for detecting Alzheimer’s disease based on images of the retina — the layer of cells that line the back of the eye.

Research suggests changes in the retina can be associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Widespread use of retinal imaging could eventually help with large-scale, inexpensive population screening for disease.

Transforming Clinical Trials


It’s likely that AI will become an important part of clinical trial design and execution more broadly in the coming years.

Clinical trials are currently expensive and labor-intensive, and AI holds potential for making them more efficient and effective.

Enrolling participants into studies often poses a major challenge, and AI could help match participants with appropriate trials. To help with recruitment, AI tools could be used to engage with participants and address their questions about a study. AI could even make the process of informed consent clearer and more interactive.

Importantly, AI could also help improve analysis of study data, and aid in widespread sharing of study findings.

Navigating Ethical Terrain


As AI becomes increasingly integrated into healthcare, it raises important questions around data privacy and ethical use. For example, AI systems often require access to large amounts of participant data. Ensuring this data is stored and used in a way that protects patient privacy and confidentiality is crucial.

Nonetheless, AI is a powerful tool offering innovative solutions for early disease detection and clinical trials. As we continue to navigate complex ethical considerations, AI is ushering in a new era of efficiency and precision in research, holding the potential to better combat conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.