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A new $17.8 million grant will help researchers discover novel ways to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease through state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI) methods.

IU researchers join nationwide effort to use artificial intelligence in study of Alzheimer's disease

6962-Saykin, Andrew

6962-Saykin, Andrew

INDIANAPOLIS—A new $17.8 million grant will help researchers discover novel ways to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease through state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI) methods.

Indiana University School of Medicine will join several institutions across the country in the five-year National Institutes of Health-funded effort, “Ultrascale Machine Learning to Empower Discovery in Alzheimer’s Disease Biobanks." Also known as “AI4AD” the project will develop new AI methods and deep-learning tools to discover features within giant databases of genetic, imaging and cognitive data collected from more than 50,000 Alzheimer’s disease participants. Forty co-investigators at 11 research centers will join forces to leverage AI and bolster precision diagnostics, prognosis and the development of new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

“The big data challenges of the initiative are unprecedented and require analyzing all components of the disease as continuous variables,” said Andrew Saykin, PsyD, AI4AD co-PI and director of the NIA-designated Indiana Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Saykin will bring expertise in Alzheimer’s disease while connecting researchers across the country in genomics and imaging. “Novel algorithms will be required to integrate and find the truly informative features within this massive data set, that will provide greater statistical power and facilitate new biological insights.”

The project will employ advanced harmonization methods that will integrate cognitive, imaging and biomarker data collected around the world that predict an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. Using AI and machine learning methods, genetic data—including tens of thousands of paired brain images and whole genome sequences—will be efficiently analyzed. Project researchers will train AI methods on large databases of brain scans to identify patterns that can help detect the disease as it emerges in individual patients.

In collaboration with principal investigators at the University of Southern California’s Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging Informatics Institute, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh, Saykin and colleagues at IU will use sophisticated AI to support the NIA goal of effectively treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by 2025.

“A critical goal is the discovery of new therapeutic and diagnostic targets,” Saykin said. “Sophisticated bioinformatics approaches will be employed to identify novel pathways and molecular targets.”

The team’s efforts in genetic, imaging and cognitive data collection could help identify new targets for drug discovery, leading to treatment and eventual prevention for those vulnerable to such a devastating disease. New achievements like this could also benefit other initiatives like the IU School of Medicine-Purdue TaRget Enablement to Accelerate Therapy Development for Alzheimer’s Disease (TREAT-AD) Center led by Alan Palkowitz, PhD, a senior research professor of medicine and Bruce Lamb, PhD, executive director of the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute, and its work in promising AD treatments.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number U01AG068057.


IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.