South London and Maudsley Foundation Trust is to lead pioneering work on dementia detection as part of a major government-funded national trial.

As part of the £1.8m programme, around 100 patients will be assessed with computer-based tests of memory and thinking and computerised analysis of MRI brain scans.

The new system will involve cognitive testing of a patient on a tablet, together with brain scans and computerised image analysis at a specialist memory clinic in London or Sussex.

It means a streamlined image analysis approach first pioneered at SLaM could be rolled out across the country if the trial is successful, which could significantly increase national rates of diagnosis for dementia and address the gap in the early detection of the condition.

The funding from a Technology Strategy Board grant is part of a collaboration between medical imaging company IXICO, a developer of neuropsychological tests, Cambridge Cognition, Imperial College and Brighton and Sussex Medical School, along with SLaM and the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College Hospital, part of King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre.

Maudsley Hospital has become a leader in dementia testing since its memory service was established with the first memory clinic in the country set up in Croydon in 2004.

This clinic, together with branches in Southwark, Lewisham and Lambeth, means service users can benefit from early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia symptoms.

The number of people with dementia nationally is expected to double in the next 30 years and it is estimated more than 400,000 people in the UK currently have dementia.

Andy Simmons, consultant clinical scientist at the trust, said: “The work builds on many years of hard work by scientists in our team and clinicians at SLaM.”

He said it could result in mobile MRI units parked outside health centres across the UK, which will contain brain imaging and cognitive testing equipment.