Health Tech World talked to Dr Sina Habibi, CEO of Cognetivity, about the company’s platform which uses AI to detect dementia and Alzheimer’s at its earliest stages.
Cognetivity’s platform requires patients to respond to 100 photos, which are displayed on an iPad in rapid succession, and select whether each contains an animal or not.
The human response to animals incites a hardwired fight or flight response that has been found to engage key areas of the brain which are impacted by dementia. Because of this, the technology is able to detect very early signs of cognitive decline.
The test measures a subject’s accuracy and response reaction times, engaging both visual and motor cortices, as well as oculomotor function. Categorisation accuracies and reaction times are then summarised to assess participants’ cognitive performance.
Habibi said: “We saw a very interesting correlation between age and the speed and accuracy of people doing these tasks.
“So, we had something very powerful, but we didn’t know where to use it. We started digging around, starting with a solution to the core problem, and the area which arose very quickly was dementia.
“Seven years ago, diagnosis rates were horrible. In advanced countries, such as the UK and US, you had half of people not receiving formal diagnosis before death.
“One of the issues in the space is that most of the technologies or most of the detection tools are tailored in order to detect the disease at a very late stage.
“The analogy I use is that while everyone has focused on memory as the hard drive of the brain, we have looked at it as the CPU of the brain, how quickly the brain processes visual information. As a result, we have a test which is a lot shorter, a lot more sensitive to the earlier stage of deterioration, and because it is visual, it’s independent of culture and language.”
Habibi expanded on why earlier detection is so important.
“You can manage the disease better. The lifecycle of the disease is around 25 to 30 years on average and the first 10 to 15 years is quite manageable. In the stage we call MCI, mild cognitive impairments, people are functional, and they can take care of themselves.
“If it is diagnosed earlier, you can continue to be in the state of MCI for longer by adding what we call cognitive reserves, using your brain more, whether it’s doing puzzles or being more active, as well as doing more physical activities.
“As we speak, 157 clinical trials are going on around the world in order to find a disease modifying therapy; as and when those drugs become available, you would have a better chance of success.”
Cognetivity recently announced deployment with their first NHS Trust, located in Staffordshire, with a second soon to be launched in Sunderland. The Sunderland deployment was scheduled to begin in December but has been delayed due to COVID-19.
Habibi spoke about the company’s plans for the technology going forward.
“We are building some complimentary technologies around our core technology in order to take that semi out of our supervision and make it completely unsupervised. That allows us to offer the assessment completely remotely.
“That is where we see the technology going and where we probably see healthcare in general going if we can keep patients at home and avoid complications.
“It has been proven for many years that patients are happier and healthier to be at home as long as they can. COVID was a huge paradigm shift and huge behavioural shift that forced everyone to do something which was common sense anyway.”