Apple iPhone Features could help detect depression and cognitive decline

MyFitnessPal and Fitbit apps on iPhone home screen

Apple is working with Biogen and UCLA to help detect depression and cognitive decline using iPhone features.

According to a WSJ exclusive today, the company is evaluating whether facial and typing metrics from the smartphone could help detect mental health concerns.

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According to the Wall Street Journal, Biogen refers to its study under the codename Pi, while Apple’s code name for its related work with UCLA is Seabreeze.

During the launch of the multi-year study in January 2021, Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos explained how the company’s new push into digital biomarkers could benefit patients and physicians.

“Cognitive decline can be an early symptom of neurodegenerative diseases and dementia,” Vounatsos said in the trial’s announcement.

“The successful development of digital biomarkers in brain health would help address the significant need to accelerate patient diagnoses and empower physicians and individuals to take timely action.” 

“Working in collaboration with Biogen, we hope this study can help the medical community better understand a person’s cognitive performance by simply having them engage with their Apple Watch and iPhone,” Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams said.

“We’re looking forward to learning about the impact our technology can have in delivering better health outcomes through improved detection of declining cognitive health.”

Earlier research has shown that it is possible to generate digital biomarkers correlated with gold-standard neurocognitive tests using passively acquired data during the daily use of a smartphone.

The new study will be available as a virtual study and is being branded as “Intuition’. You can download the app today.BIOGEN Apple Watch Study

Intuition is a virtual research study sponsored by Biogen, in collaboration with Apple, for participants between the ages of 21 and 86. By joining the study, you can help researchers investigate the role an Apple Watch and iPhone could play in:

  • Measuring changes in thinking and memory in adults
  • Studying longer-term changes in brain health – some of which may typically occur as we age, while others could be an early indicator of certain forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease

Source: WSJ

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Sudz Niel Kar
I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA specializing in emerging tech, and owned the popular site AppleToolBox. In my day job, I advise Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health and fitness-tech evolution and keeping a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships, and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch and closely monitor my HRV and other recovery metrics.


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