COLLABORATION

Sydney University’s China partnership marries neuroscience & artificial intelligence

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China has 20 percent of the world's dementia patients and care is expected to cost the country $114 billion by 2030.

The University of Sydney signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday with Shanghai’s Fudan University to form the Brain and Intelligence Science Alliance (BISA), which will bring together research into cognitive neuroscience and brain disorders with the ethical implications of artificial intelligence.

The partnership is particularly timely as China faces a substantial and growing problem with brain disorders, which is expected to worsen acutely as the population ages.

“When it comes to brain disorders the challenges China faces over the next few decades as its population ages further are immense,” said University of Sydney’s lead academic on the partnership, Professor Sharon Naismith.

“Therefore research on the prevention, early diagnosis and early intervention for brain disorders is particularly urgent.”

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Experts have warned China is not ready to tackle the swiftly growing number of dementia patients requiring nursing staff and care. It currently has the largest population of people living with dementia, with numbers projected to reach 23.3 million by 2030, according to the World Health Organisation. Care is expected to cost the country up to US$114 billion.

Dr Michael Spence who signed the MOU on behalf of the University of Sydney, explained this was one of the many reasons they chose to work with Fudan University.

“We need to work across disciplines and across oceans if our research is going to improve lives,” Spence said in a statement.

“The challenges of brain disorders, computational neuroscience and the ethics of artificial intelligence can only be addressed if we get the sharpest minds working on solutions. That’s why we are working with Fudan University on this important research.”

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Fudan University hosts a global interdisciplinary research platform in brain intelligence science and technology which leverages the university’s strengths in applied mathematics, computer science, neurobiology, clinical medicine amongst others.

The University of Sydney hopes the partnership will “facilitate deeper cooperation between the two universities in the fields of data science, neuroscience and artificial intelligence.”

While other Australian universities have been exploring how to use artificial intelligence to help overcome brain disorders like dementia, this collaboration goes a step further, also considering artificial intelligence and computational science beyond just its application for brain disorders.