Cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology for diagnosing neurological disease such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s from eye scans will be tested and scaled in the NHS.
The Newcastle University-led project working with partners at the RVI in Newcastle part of the Newcastle NHS Foundation Trust and Sunderland Eye Infirmary is one of the first winners of the AI in Health and Care Award sharing part of £50m.
Neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s affect over one million people in the UK. As they are progressive it is important to diagnose them as soon as possible.
Anya Hurlbert, professor of visual neuroscience at Newcastle University is leading the Octahedron project and explains: “The retina at the back of the eye is basically an outpost of the brain and the only part of the central nervous system we can see directly from the outside. We know that in Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease the retina is affected.”
Using optical coherence tomography, OCT scanning, which is quick and cheap and increasingly available at high street opticians, incredibly detailed images of the retina can be captured. However, getting information out of the scans needs further development.
AI tools have already been developed to interpret the OCT images and detect common eye diseases. AI tools are going to be further developed by the Octahedron team to capture signs of neurological disease, using the vast quantities of OCT scans required.
“The aim of the project is to use NHS data to teach computers how to detect early signs of neurological disease via retinal imaging. Ultimately, the project will help to catch those at risk earlier, before other symptoms develop,” added Professor Hurlbert.
“All of a sudden, I couldn’t dance”
Charlotte Allen from Durham, lives with Parkinson’s as a patient and carer, and recalled when