Thursday , February 25 2021

Fox News regurgitates a hot mess from UK Sun

Our review summary

This short, 375-river story released by Fox News originates from the Sun. Describes a study using an artificial intelligence algorithm to detect brain scan patterns.

The story at least warns readers that for a small-sized study (only 40 subjects), more studies should be conducted to know if the "100% accuracy" report for predicting Alzheimer's disease six years before the diagnosis can actually be repeated.

But behind that, the story is full of holes and canned citations. The press was much more informative.

Why this is true

Early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is currently a hot research area. Stories often emphasize the premise that "catching" Alzheimer's wound helps doctors stop or stop the disease "before they start".

Although this may have an intuitive appeal, there is currently no evidence suggesting that it is currently feasible or even possible in the near future. This is an important point that should be made in all the stories about early diagnosis and the "prevention" of this degenerative neurological disease.

This type of frame has a great risk of deceiving patients and their caretakers and, perhaps even disturbing, providing false hope based on what is usually preliminary discoveries that are by no means convincing.


Is the story adequately quantifying the advantages of the process / test / product / process?

Not satisfactory

The story highlights one benefit:

"The [artificial intelligence algorithm] is able to identify dementia in 40 patients for an average of six years before being formally diagnosed … with 100% accuracy "

But who these patients were and how they were elected, it was not mentioned. Nor is it mentioned that the specificity was 82%. In other words, almost 1 out of 5 (18%) respondents were expected to develop dementia that was never diagnosed (absorbed "false positive test").

Is the story adequately explaining / quantifying the damage to the intervention?

Not satisfactory

Not mentioned. As with all screening tests, there is a risk of false positive or false negative results. Or they can create anxiety, confusion, and inadequate treatment.

As far as the PET scan itself is concerned, the American College of Radiology states the following:

  • Although the amount of trace radiation is low, potential damage should be considered in pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • The main allergic reactions to the tract are rare, but occur.

A slight circular opening of the scanner may cause anxiety in some patients who may require sedation or stopping the scan.

Does it seem to tell the story of the quality of the evidence?

Not satisfactory

In addition to selective selection to emphasize the dramatic 100% sensitivity of the test (but ignoring the mentioned 82% specificity stated in the benefits) the story does not mention a key context:

Not only did the study group be very small (n = 40) but also very selective. All the respondents had already been referred to a memory clinic, and their neurologist was concerned enough to scan the brain. This means that it is completely unknown how well this AI model predicts Alzheimer's disease in the wider public.

The story at least included the allegations of people who made it clear that the results of this small pilot study must be obstructed or confirmed by larger studies, but should be clear to readers, the main reason for this caution being the highly selected / non-representative nature of the surveyed population.

Also, the story should explain that the definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease requires autopsy (or biopsy – rarely done). In this study, only one patient's diagnosis was confirmed by autopsy.

Does the story begin with the disease?


The story does not cause the disease.

However, this sentence was problematic and I think it is worth mentioning:

Early detection of Alzheimer's disease could open the door to new ways of slowing down or even stopping progression

Though the tone is speculative, it still misunderstood that early detection could result in slowing down or stopping Alzheimer's disease. There is currently no treatment – no matter what time of diagnosis – which can significantly slow down or definitely stop this progressive neurological disease.

Total score: 2 of 9 Satisfied

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