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AI tool identifies early indicators of dementia

CognoSpeak Shines as AI Innovation in Dementia Diagnosis

CognoSpeak, an innovative artificial intelligence technology developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield, promises to expedite and enhance the early detection of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

By analysing speech and language patterns, this innovative tool identifies early indicators of cognitive disorders, potentially revolutionising dementia diagnosis.

About CognoSpeak

Welcoming the potency of AI and speech technology, CognoSpeak analyses language and speech patterns, detecting signs of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other memory disorders.

CognoSpeak is an AI tool that presents a virtual character on a screen.

This character interacts with the patient, asking questions to probe their memory, akin to what occurs during outpatient consultations. In addition, it conducts cognitive tests, such as picture descriptions and verbal fluency tests.

The creators of the technology, Dr Dan Blackburn and Professor Heidi Christensen anticipate that a fully-developed CognoSpeak could significantly reduce the strain on dementia assessment services.

Functionality and Accessibility

CognoSpeak is accessible via a web browser, allowing patients to use the tool from their homes on a computer, laptop, or tablet.

This alleviates the need for a hospital appointment for pen-and-paper-based assessments, which could potentially cause unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Once fully deployed, the tool could act as a bridge between primary and secondary care.

GPs could refer individuals with memory concerns to utilise CognoSpeak, with the test results then sent back to the GP for further evaluation.

Reliability and Efficacy

Early trials have demonstrated the efficacy of CognoSpeak, revealing that its predictive accuracy for Alzheimer’s disease matches that of traditional pen-and-paper-based tests.

In fact, the AI tool has achieved an impressive 90% accuracy rate in distinguishing individuals with Alzheimer’s from cognitively healthy ones.

Dr Dan Blackburn remarked, “Waiting for a possible diagnosis of dementia can be a very anxious time for patients and their families. This tool could help patients start treatments sooner, reduce waiting times and give people certainty earlier.”

The Journey Ahead

Benefiting from a £1.4 million grant from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), CognoSpeak is currently being extensively trialled.

The recruitment of 700 participants from memory clinics across the UK is underway to further refine the system.

Professor Heidi Christensen stated, “The way a person speaks can tell us a great deal about their cognitive health and emotional wellbeing, and give us a very early indication of any signs of cognitive decline that may not otherwise have been detected.”

Addressing Inequalities

In the UK, approximately 900,000 people are living with dementia, and this figure is expected to nearly double by 2040, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.

The advent of CognoSpeak could play a significant role in curbing the long waiting times and service access inequalities prevalent in memory clinics across the UK.

Dr Blackburn, who is also an Honorary Consultant Neurologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and researcher at NIHR Sheffield BRC, expressed, “The CognoSpeak tool can reduce these inequalities and help make the service more efficient.”

A Collaborative Effort

The AI tool, CognoSpeak, has been collaboratively developed with Therapy Box, a company specialising in speech and language technology, and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Devices for Dignity MedTech Cooperative (D4D).

The collaborative team is dedicated to ensuring the tool is acceptable, reliable, and accessible to all future users, including those from ethnic minority communities who are less likely to engage with dementia services and may speak English as an additional language.

Lise Sproson, Patient and Public Involvement Lead at D4D emphasised their commitment to working closely with a wide range of community groups to co-develop the CognoSpeak system.

Patients interested in participating in the CognoSpeak trial can sign up via

Rebecca Taylor

Rebecca is our AI news writer. A graduate of Leeds University with an International Journalism MA, she possesses a keen eye for the latest AI developments. Rebecca’s passion for AI, and with her journalistic expertise, brings insightful news stories for our readers.

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