Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, February 5, 2021

Alzheimer’s Prediction May Be Found in Writing Tests

It could be possible to predict who will develop Alzheimer's by looking at writing patterns. "IBM researchers trained artificial intelligence to pick up hints of changes in language ahead of the onset of neurological diseases. 

The IBM researchers, along with other, say that this research is just the beginning. "People with a wide variety of neurological illnesses have distinctive language patterns that, investigators suspect, may serve as early warning signs of their diseases." 

The Alzheimer's study focused on 80 men and women, all in their 80s. Half of them had Alzheimer's and the other half did not. 

As part of the study, the group took a writing test before any of them had developed the disease. The test asks the participants to describe "a drawing of a boy standing on an unsteady stool and reaching for a cookie jar on a high shelf while a woman, her back to him, is oblivious to an overflowing sink." 

The researchers used the subjects' responses to analyze their word usage with an artificial intelligence program that looked for "subtle differences in language." 

The A.I program predicted who would get Alzheimer's with 75% accuracy. 

See Gina Kolata, Alzheimer’s Prediction May Be Found in Writing Tests, N.Y. Times, February 1, 2021. 

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  


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