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Tool predicts patient wellbeing after stroke

A computer programme that can assess brain health and help predict function after stroke has been developed by scientists.

The new approach can quantify brain injury by translating more than a million bits of information stored in brain scans into one single measure.

It is up to ten times more accurate than existing methods, experts say.

Early warning

Researchers say the new measure – named the Brain Health Index – could give early warning of possible decline in a patient’s memory and thinking abilities before symptoms develop.

We found that putting all visible factors on the scan together gave better prediction, yet most current computer methods do not consider all factors available on the scan and may not be suitable for older patients. This is what led to the development of the Brain Health Index.

Professor Joanna WardlawHead of Neuroimaging Services, University of Edinburgh

Brain tests

Stroke is a serious condition that occurs when part of the blood supply to the brain is cut off, damaging cells.

Current assessment methods make it difficult for doctors to predict how an individual patient’s cognitive ability will recover.

Memory problems

Researchers found that the index predicted thinking and memory problems seen in stroke better than current methods used for assessing features of brain decline.

Spotting risks of declining function early means that the onset of symptoms could be slowed with lifestyle changes and treatment of health factors including blood pressure, researchers say.

We recognised a need for a more inclusive approach to assessing common brain disorders of ageing. Our new method allows us to use every piece of information from a brain scan, rather than just individual features of the brain that can only tell us so much about a person’s risk for cognitive problems.

Dr David Alexander DickieResearch Associate, University of Glasgow

Stroke survivors

About 1.2 million people living in the UK are survivors of stroke. The study – led by scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow – involved more than 250 people, including stroke patients and healthy volunteers.

The research, funded by the Stroke Association, is published in the International Journal of Stroke.

Related links

Journal article

Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

Edinburgh Neuroscience

Edinburgh Medical School