New Science-Backed Approaches To Dementia

Dementia Action Week 2019 #DAW2019

This article will uncover what dementia is and how it relates to the brain and its functions. We’ll be taking a deep-dive look into some interesting and seriously eye-opening new science-backed studies and reports on the following:

  • Artificial Intelligence And Dementia
  • Brain Training And Dementia
  • Diet And Dementia

What Is Dementia?

Alzheimer’s Society defines it as:

“A set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.”

What Are The Symptoms For Dementia?

Different symptoms occur depending on which parts of the brain have been damaged and the disease that’s causing the dementia. A few examples of dementia symptoms are:

  • Memory loss
  • Lack of concentration and problem solving issues
  • Struggling with day-to-day language and conversations
  • Decline in visuospatial skills which can affect judging distances and object locations

These symptoms usually grow in severity, so much so that a person with dementia can fail to function normally in everyday life.

What Causes Dementia?

“Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but not the only one.” Other diseases which cause dementia include HIV infection and some people with Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease develop dementia as the illness progresses.

With dementia at the forefront of many neuroscientists research, this article will highlight the ways in which they are looking for new findings to help prevent, reverse, treat and support dementia.

Artificial Intelligence And Dementia

Artificial intelligence (AI) plays a huge part in our daily lives. And with each month and year AI’s presence and impact grows. There are many perceived negative aspects of AI such as the potential health implications of 5G in cities and the ‘takeover’ by AI in the workplace and beyond. AI does however offer up something potentially significant for healthcare research and in particular scientific research behind dementia.

How Can AI help With Dementia Research?

A new 2019 study: Your Robot Therapist Will See You Now found that AI applications in mental health such as dementia offer up “new modes of treatment, opportunities to engage hard-to-reach populations (and) better patient response.” Another 2019 study: Diagnostic Accuracy Of Frontotemporal Dementia. An Artificial Intelligence-Powered Study Of Symptoms, Imaging And Clinical Judgement looked into frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a neurodegenerative disorder associated with a poor prognosis and a substantial reduction in quality of life. The rate of misdiagnosis of FTD is very high, with patients often waiting for years without a firm diagnosis.” Their study looked at using AI to help the high rate of misdiagnosis by using a new artificial intelligence-based algorithm to analyse the dementia-related data.

The study concluded that the AI-based algorithm can “efficiently guide clinical practice and improve the accuracy of the diagnosis of FTD whilst making the process of auditing faster and more economically viable.”

However it’s also important to look at the negative aspects of AI and dementia which could include:

  • Lack of contact with a human doctor
  • Data ethics and knowing where to draw the line
  • No guidance on the development of these AI applications
  • Ethical issues of replacing humans with AI technology

Using AI and dementia could help with an earlier diagnosis, however it’s tricky to know if the positives will outweigh the negatives.

Brain Training And Dementia

What Is Brain Training?

Brain training uses different methods to maintain, improve and optimise certain areas of the brain. And how can brain training help dementia? There are many scientifically proven brain training games you can play and weave into your everyday routine.

One of the best science-backed brain training apps is our app called Peak – Brain Training; we work with scientists at leading UK and US universities to create games which are scientifically proven to train your cognitive skills.

When working with scientists at City University, they were able to show that some of our language games help reduce symptoms of depression and depression has now been linked to dementia. By playing a specific Peak – Brain Training game, you may be able to reduce depression symptoms. Whilst working with Cambridge University we developed brain training games which boost your ability to remember things; as memory and loss of memory can be a symptom of dementia, optimising your ability to remember things is of paramount importance.  

By investing a short amount of time to train your brain each day, you may be helping with your cognitive development for many years to come.

Diet And Dementia  

Nutrition and diet have a constant and direct impact on how our body and brain functions. We can often see and feel a reaction to food sources and drinks, however there are many internal reactions that go unnoticed for years. And many of these can directly affect and cause short and long-term damage to our cognitive (brain) health.

A 2019 study: Healthy Dietary Changes in Midlife Are Associated With Reduced Dementia Risk Later in Life, found that there may be a chance to ‘undo’ the damage of years of poor nutrition and the effects it may have caused to the brain. The study discusses implementing a midlife diet change by “improving quality of fats, increasing vegetables, decreasing sugar and salt” which were “associated with a reduced risk of dementia.”

The risk reduction was significant when all these factors were changed at once and notably insignificant when just one dietary change was made. If you increase your vegetable intake but don’t decrease your sugar intake then there are limited positive effects. “The results highlight the importance of targeting (all) dietary patterns” and how “beneficial midlife dietary changes are associated with a reduced dementia risk later in life.” In other words make the changes now.

Key takeaways from these new science-backed approaches to dementia:

  1. AI could help dementia research by enabling faster prognosis and providing more accurate results.
  2. Training your brain by using science-backed games in addition to your everyday routine can help.
  3. Diet and nutrition play a vital role in the hindrance or progression of dementia.

Dementia Action Week 2019 #DAW2019

Sources Cited:

Maisie Bygraves

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