IBM has granted $10 million to the University of California-San Diego to study mild cognitive impairment (MCI), one of the earliest and most common forms of neurocognitive decline. The study will outfit participating seniors with an array of sensors and wearable technology to gather data on how well they remember things and make decisions during their daily lives. IBM’s Watson, an artificial intelligence computing system capable of analyzing enormous data sets with speed and accuracy, will comb the data for patterns that could lead to better and earlier ways of detecting MCI.
Some of the study participants will be monitored in their homes with technology that can detect subtle changes in behavior, such as stumbling over words, forgetting what an object is called, or repeating tasks or words. Others will participate in a more traditional cognitive function study through the university’s Center for Healthy Aging. Yet another part of the study is going to look deeper—right into the gut—to study the biome of microorganisms living in a person’s gut that scientists believe might have a significant effect on health, including memory.
All aspects of the study are driven by one mission: Learning how to detect memory loss and cognitive decline earlier. “If you can detect it in time, there are ways to dramatically slow MCI down,” UC San Diego computer scientist Tajana Šimunić Rosing, one of the researchers conducting the five-year study, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “The bad news is that by the time most people go see a doctor they’re already experiencing more severe stages of cognitive decline.”
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