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Taiwan’s EEG-Aided System for Screening of Dementia in Alzheimer’s

Supported by Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), the interdisciplinary research team at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST), has successfully developed the world-first electroencephalography (EEG)-based computer-aided diagnosis (CADx) system for rapid screening of both dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and its prodromal phase – the mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

The development was made possible by integrating different domains’ technologies, including EEG signal processing, circuits and electronics, Artificial Intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and medical science. The EEG-based CADx system has demonstrated high accuracy and high usability and, therefore, has great potential to provide an objective measure to assist MCI diagnosis, facilitating early intervention and reducing the risk of developing into Alzheimer’s dementia.

According to the Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), There are currently estimated to be over 55 million people worldwide living with dementia.  A new case of dementia arises somewhere in the world every 3 seconds. The number of people affected is projected to rise up to 139 million by 2050. In Taiwan, 291,961 elders suffer from this disease, occupying 7.7% of the older population. Currently, there is still no effective treatment for neurodegenerative diseases such as AD.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a state between cognitive declines with normal ageing and cognitive impairments caused by dementia due to AD. The MCI is a common condition in the older population, and individuals with MCI are at higher risk to develop AD in their later stages.

However, MCI is usually underdiagnosed in the community because older adults with MCI are often not aware of subtle declination of their cognitive function, which primarily prevents them from seeking medical advice or even interventions. Therefore, a safe, objective and easy-to-implement method for accurate and efficient classification of individuals with MCI and healthy individuals is essential to promote early intervention of MCI.

The researchers have delved into the research of EEG-based diagnosis for AD and MCI. The research team has developed the nonlinearly multiple EEG feature decoding technique, and identified the most MCI-sensitive brain areas by using machine learning methods. An automatic EEG classification algorithm superior to the state-of-the-art methods was also proposed and embedded in the AI model, achieving a leading MCI detection accuracy of 90%. The related research outcomes have been published in different journals.

The EEG-based CADx system consists of three components, sensors (surface electrodes), EEG amplifier (analogue signal acquisition and processing), and software (AI model). It has the advantages of convenience safety (non-invasive), efficiency, and high accuracy (90%). Compared with other neuroimaging approaches, functional MRI for example, this technology is, therefore, more suitable for a routine screen of MCI and AD.

Taiwanese researchers have been developing advanced technologies to diagnose diseases, including leukaemia. As reported by OpenGov Asia, a research team led by National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) developed Artificial Intelligence (AI) system that speeds up leukaemia diagnosis after completing trials at four medical institutions in Taiwan and the United States.

The trials have conducted assessments and differential counting of bone marrow smears which are used for leukaemia diagnosis. A total of 254 patients were involved in the trials. The diagnosis results using the AI system reached a matching rate of 70-90% with those by a human doctor. The AI system has received approval from Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare and the European Union for marketing as an AI medical device.

NTUH believes that the future of our medicine will be built mainly around holistic and personalised healthcare. On the basis of humanistic care of better quality, NTUH will be able to appropriately utilise electronic information and biotechnology to form the foundation of our management and raise their service quality to international standards. NTUH has been adapting in the past to the changing times and shifts in the environment by carrying out a series of organisational reconstruction and R&D programs.

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