New AI solutions to detect and combat dementia and cognitive decline developed

NTT DATA is tackling dementia with AI and digital avatars, hoping to improve ability and safety for those experiencing cognitive decline.

NTT DATA has announced two new AI solutions to help detect cognitive decline in elderly people, aiming to combat escalating dementia numbers and enhance cognitive capabilities.

Longevity.Technology: Over 55 million people over the age of 65 are living with dementia, with cases increasing by approximately 10 million each year [1]. This statistic underscores the urgent need for innovative solutions to tackle the global burden of this debilitating neurodegenerative disease. Despite significant investment and efforts in drug research, progress has been disappointingly slow, with no breakthrough treatments on the horizon. The complexity of dementia needs more than expensive drugs that slow progress in the early stages, and innovative AI solutions have the potential to make a profound impact. By leveraging AI’s capabilities in data analysis, pattern recognition and predictive modeling, researchers can gain deeper insights into the underlying mechanisms of dementia, identify potential biomarkers for early detection, and develop more targeted interventions. AI and machine learning can catalyze meaningful progress in diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately, improve the quality of life for millions affected by this devastating condition.

The Brain Bio-Digital Twin

NTT, in partnership with the National Center for Neurology and Psychiatry (NCNP), is working on a new technology called the Brain Bio-Digital Twin. This involves gathering significant amounts of data on brain-related diseases, converting it into digital data, then mapping it virtually as a digital model of the brain. With the data collected and digitized, AI and machine learning can then be used to study the brain and its functions. This project is an evolution of NTT’s work to create a Bio-Digital Twin of the entire body, not just the brain, which the company hopes will provide valuable insights into a person’s overall health. 

The goal of the research program is to create a digital version of a person’s brain that can be studied instead of the actual patient, with a prototype model planned for this year. NTT hopes this will lead to fewer invasive tests for patients, cheaper and simpler testing methods, better predictions of medication side effects, and earlier disease detection and prevention.

NCNP is a Tokyo-based organisation which offers treatments, as well as research on prevention and therapy, for patients with mental, nervous, muscular, and developmental disorders. It is contributing important data to the Brain Bio Digital Twin, including PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans, and related bio-samples (blood, cerebrospinal fluid, tissue samples, genetic information), as well as supporting with medical interpretation of the results obtained through AI and ML processing.

NTT DATA’s work is also advancing research into combating dementia by using AI and deepfake technology to build digital avatars to communicate with dementia patients and stimulate them through dialogue.. 

AI to detect cognitive decline

NTT DATA is also developing a new system that uses AI to detect the cognitive ability of elderly drivers, and has already started work with Kokusai Motorcars on the project, which is scheduled to run until the end of June. Together they will analyze the driving behaviour of Kokusai Motorcars’ taxi drivers in order to develop the AI solution. 

The AI system will analyze driving speed, acceleration and deceleration, and other driving data to assess whether drivers are seeing a decline in cognitive brain activity, such as the ability to make snap judgments and pay attention. The taxi company will collect a large amount of driving data from dozens of taxis whose drivers are 65 years old or older, which will be fed to NTT DATA in order to develop AI algorithms and verify the accuracy of driver judgments. 

Data will be collected by attaching measurement devices equipped with global positioning systems, sensors and communication functions to the vehicles. It will then be sent to AI in the cloud to measure driving behaviours such as sudden braking and acceleration. This data will then be analyzed in conjunction with the driver’s original cognitive function status and age to determine whether the driver’s cognitive abilities are normal or if they are in decline.

NTT DATA is aiming to launch the system as a cloud-based service within the next couple of years, with the service being targeted at the taxi and logistics industries in particular, where the average age of drivers is steadily increasing. The system will also be made available to general drivers in the future and NTT DATA is also considering building a specific version of this solution for insurance companies, so that it can be incorporated as a function of their insurance products.

[1] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia