Apple partners with Biogen to search for digital cognitive health biomarkers via Apple Watch and iPhone

Apple has partnered with Biogen for a multi-year observational research study to investigate the use of the Apple Watch and iPhone to detect declining cognitive health. Launching later in 2021, the primary aim of the research is to develop “biomarkers to help monitor cognitive performance over time and identify early signs of MCI” (mild cognitive impairment).

Currently, the Apple Watch is not only a smartwatch but a reliable health monitoring device. Integrated with iPhone’s Health app, users can track and record their calories, steps, workouts, menstruation cycle, sleep, ECG. Its fall and heartrate detection features have saved lives. The latest health feature is blood oxygen monitoring in the Apple Watch Series 6. If the cognitive study has a successful outcome, it will boost the Apple Watch market as the only smartwatch to be able to detect cognitive health as mental health issues take years to surface and stay untreated for a long time.

Driven by the powerful technology in Apple Watch and iPhone and Biogen’s in-depth knowledge of neuroscience, the study’s primary objectives are to develop digital biomarkers to help monitor cognitive performance over time and identify early signs of MCI.

Apple is investigating the role of Apple Watch and iPhone in monitoring and detecting cognitive health

Mental health issues are not restricted to age or gender. Therefore, the study will include young and aging adults with a variety of cognitive performance. Having said that, the impact of mental health conditions are more detrimental in 65 years old demographic.

For aging adults, cognitive health is becoming increasingly recognized as an important component of overall health. However, significant delays exist in identifying declines in cognitive health including MCI, which impacts approximately 15 – 20 percent of adults over the age of 65. The onset of symptoms is often subtle, ranging from being easily distracted to memory loss, and can take months to years before cognitive decline comes to the attention of health care providers.

This technological breakthrough will be profoundly beneficial for the diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases, dementia, and other conditions. Both companies are excited about the possibilities and advancement in medicine as a result of the study.

“Cognitive decline can be an early symptom of neurodegenerative diseases and dementia. 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. For healthcare systems, such advancements in cognitive biomarkers from large-scale studies could contribute significantly to prevention and better population-based health outcomes, and lower costs to health systems. Bringing together the best of neuroscience with the best of technology creates a wonderful prospect for patients and public health.”- Michel Vounatsos, CEO at Biogen.

“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. 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.”- Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.

Biogen ensures that the participants’ privacy will be protected with transparency on how their data will be used and they can also decide to opt-out at any level of the study.

The study has been designed with customer privacy, control and transparency in mind as well as data security. Participants, who can stop taking part in the study at any time, will complete a detailed consent form listing the collected data types and how each may be used and shared. Data will be stored in an encrypted manner and in systems with strong security controls designed to protect the data.

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