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Diagnosing Dementia Using Fastball Neurocognitive Assessment

This project will embed Fastball (a promising new technique for diagnosing dementia) in an NHS memory clinic to establish how sensitive and accurate it is.



Project status

In progress


1 May 2023 to 31 Jul 2027


This project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) through its Invention for Innovation (i4i) Programme.

About this project

Dementia is currently diagnosed too late, up to 20 years after the disease has begun. Quicker, more accurate ways to diagnose dementia are greatly needed so patients can get treatments earlier and plan for their future. Our aim is to improve early diagnosis using a new way of measuring brain function in the early stages of dementia (Fastball).

Pen and paper tests are used to help diagnose dementia, but they have many problems. They cannot detect the earliest signs of dementia or tell different forms of dementia apart. Additionally, anxiety, language and educational ability can affect people’s scores.

Electroencephalography (EEG) measures brain activity using cheap, easy-to-use headsets. We have developed a technique called Fastball, which involves showing a person some pictures to remember, and then showing the pictures to them at a very fast rate, mixed up amongst pictures they have not seen.

Using Electroencephalography (EEG), which measures brain activity using easy-to-use headsets, we can see brain waves from areas of the brain that recognise images, to show whether the person remembers the pictures or not.

Project team and partners

This is a collaborative project led by the Department of Psychology, in partnership with the University of Bristol, University College London (UCL), Cumulus Neuroscience Ltd., and the North Bristol NHS Trust.

Project team

Project design and methods

We have already shown that Fastball can detect the early stages of dementia, and it works whatever language the person speaks, how educated or nervous they are.

We plan to use Fastball in a dementia clinic at Southmead Hospital, Bristol. Everyone who attends the clinic will have a chance to try the Fastball test, as well as their usual tests and care. We then will use the data to see if we can diagnose dementia earlier and more accurately than pen and paper tests.

We will also try Fastball in two GP surgeries to learn how and where we could use Fastball in the NHS, and work with economists to estimate how much it could save the NHS in the future.


A big part of this project is to also develop Fastball as a commercial product so that it can be available throughout the NHS.

We are partnering with Cumulus Neuroscience Ltd. to develop and distribute Fastball tests nationally on their cutting-edge EEG platform.

This preparation will mean that once we have shown Fastball is reliable and effective, we will be ready to roll out Fastball and make a real difference to dementia diagnosis.

Related content

Other resources and information related to this project.


The Fastball-Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) project aims to develop a new tool for the early diagnosis of dementia.

Contact us

If you have any questions about out research, please contact us.