Science news at the speed of thought

17-year-old programs artificial 'brain' to diagnose breast cancer

July 25, 2012

A high school junior has created a computer brain that can diagnose breast cancer with 99 percent sensitivity.

Seventeen-year-old Brittany Wenger of Sarasota, Fla., wrote a breast cancer-diagnosing app based on an artificial neural network, basically a computer program whose structure is inspired by the way brain cells connect with one another. She won grand prize at the Google Science Fair for her invention in ceremony held in Palo Alto, Calif. last night (July 23).

Like other artificial intelligence programs, artificial neural networks "learn" what to do by analyzing examples they're given and they perform better if they get more examples. In addition, they're able to detect patterns in data that are too complex for human brains or other types of programs to analyze. Just this past June, Google researchers built a neural network that learned to recognize cats on the Internet without any outside input.

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