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Preventing dementia with early intervention: AI assessment of the brain health of elderly individuals through their responses during a phone call


On World Alzheimer's Day (September 21), NTT Communications Corporation (NTT Com) launched 'Brain Health Check Plus,' a paid trial service using artificial intelligence (AI) to detect early signs of cognitive decline. The concept of this service is to create a 'society where fewer individuals, families, and companies experience the anxiety or inconvenience dementia can cause.' People can easily check their cognitive function by dialing 0570-012354 from a cell phone or landline (without visiting a medical office).

On the same day, Senior Executive Vice President and Representative Member of the Board of NTT Com Hidemune Sugahara, and Director Seiji Kuno of the Smart Healthcare Promotion Office at the Smart World Business Division at the Business Solution Head Office held a briefing for media and provided an overview of the project background, concept, and service. Prior to the current paid trial service, a free trial service with no call charges—'Brain Health Check Free Dial'—was launched on September 21, 2022.

Sugahara described the serious situation of elderly individuals in Japan with cognitive decline, "In 2025, one in five elderly individuals (approximately 7.3 million out of 36.57 million adults aged 65 years or over) is estimated to have dementia. Prevalence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is estimated to be 13% (approximately 4.75 million elderly individuals). Including this pre-stage of dementia, one in three elderly individuals is estimated to have cognitive decline in 2025."

However, he pointed out, "Early treatment is typically effective in dementia, and recovery from MCI is possible. Early detection is most important." He emphasized that early assessment and diagnosis are vital for dementia cases. For this reason, NTT Com launched the paid trial service, which offers a more detailed assessment regarding dementia than the previous free trial service.

The 'Brain Health Check Plus' service utilizes 'M-KENSA' AI for assessments of cognitive function, which was jointly developed by NTT Com and Nippontect Systems. The service assesses pauses and voice pitch during a caller's responses, temporal orientation (ability to understand the fundamental temporal context, such as the present year, month, date, and time), as well as immediate memory and working memory (ability to temporarily store and process information). With these upgraded functions, the paid trial service can now identify pre-stage dementia by categorizing the status of an individual's cognitive function into five stages, rather than two stages identified in the previous free trial service.

The implementation of the free trial service, 'Brain Health Check Free Dial,' last year confirmed high levels of anxiety and concern about dementia in oneself and one's parents. Consequently, the cognitive function assessment service utilizing AI has been accepted by society. Based on these findings, NTT Com decided to launch the paid trial service to offer a more detailed assessment.

The specific procedure of the service follows: 1) a caller dials the service number, 2) the caller answers questions about the day, date, month, and year corresponding to the date of the call, 3) the caller answers several other questions (for approximately four minutes), 4) AI assesses the caller's cognitive function from the caller's responses and speech, and 5) the assessment results are given to the caller during the call.

The assessment takes about six minutes and costs approximately 180 yen for a call from a cell phone or 60 yen from a landline. Using the service once per month is recommended. This service provides an assessment of cognitive function, and it is not a medical service.

According to Kuno, NTT Com plans to collaborate with partner companies and local authorities in implementing both the 'Brain Health Check Plus' and 'Brain Health Check Free Dial' services. In addition to the AI function assessing cognitive function, NTT Com will offer contracting partner companies and local authorities exclusive phone numbers, a history management function of users, and an SMS function for the transmission of related information. Based on a user's information, the contracting partner companies and local authorities will be able to hold events related to brain health and develop relevant insurance products.

NTT Com will collect data and analyze trends on the usage rate of the paid trial service, response completion rate, users' age groups, phone types used, and the five-stage assessment results. The findings will facilitate developing new business models with partner companies and local authorities and promote implementation of the service in society. NTT Com plans to release the 'Brain Health Check Plus' and 'Brain Health Check Free Dial' services as corporate services during this fiscal year.

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd. ( Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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