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News - 11th February 2020

How can wearables revolutionise the detection of dementia?

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Do you use a smart watch or fitness tracker to record your runs? There’s been a huge boom in the market for these devices and they have become a key piece of kit for so many runners.

 

But do you know that the big advances in technology behind them could lead to a revolution in the detecting and treating of the diseases that cause dementia?

 

Currently we can only identify that a person has dementia when symptoms are already impacting their life. But these symptoms only emerge after the disease causing the dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, has been underway in the brain for as long as 20 years.

 

Identifying the very earliest changes in these diseases would transform research efforts, giving us the best chance of stopping them before the symptoms of dementia start to get in the way of life.

 

Indeed many researchers believe that we may have already developed effective Alzheimer’s treatments that can slow the progression of the disease, but because we can’t identify people with the disease early enough, they are languishing in a lab instead of changing people’s lives.

 

That’s why this week Alzheimer’s Research UK has launched an ambitious project called the Early Detection of Neurodegenerative diseases (EDoN) initiative which brings together world leading experts in data science, digital technology and dementia.

 

Every hour of every day, our brains are generating signals, patterns of data about how we move, sleep and interact that could provide vital clues to the earliest changes in the brain in diseases like Alzheimer’s.

 

By capitalising on incredible advances in machine learning and pooling data, our scientists will aim to develop digital data ‘fingerprints’ that pick up on these changes. They could then be detected by wearable technologies like watches or headbands.

 

Early detection has transformed the treatment of cancer and heart disease, and we can do the same for dementia.

 

For more information about EDoN and to watch a film about the initiative voiced by Stephen Fry go to www.edon-initiative.org

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