Apple Smart Devices To Identify Alzheimer's Disease

A study conducted by Evidation Health on behalf of Eli Lilly and Apple suggests that data collect from smart devices and digital apps might help speed up the diagnosis of early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The study, “Developing Measures of Cognitive Impairment in the Real World from Consumer-Grade Multimodal Sensor Streams,” was performed in order to assess the feasibility of using smart devices to differentiate individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and early Alzheimer’s disease (AD) dementia from healthy controls.

Smart devices to differentiate

MCI is the clinically symptomatic, pre dementia stage of AD; cognitive deficits do not yet impair the ability to function at work or in daily activities. The authors said the platform was use to collect a total of 16TB of data; hence during the Lilly Exploratory Digital Assessment Study; this was a 12-week feasibility study that monitor 31 people with cognitive impairment and 82 without cognitive impairment.

Evidation Health’s role was in building a study platform to collect and analyze data; gather from the 113 participants, aged 60 to 75. Study components were an iPhone to be used as their primary phone; Apple Watch, iPad with smart keyboard and Beddit sleep monitoring device, with apps. What were the researchers looking for? They hoped for results from tasks; reading, typing speed and dragging one shape onto another or tapping a circle, were involve. The team studied mood; so sleep patterns and energy as well as motor control.

“In the study, symptomatic participants tended to type more slowly and show less routine behavior namely; which in the range of times with picking up and putting down their phones for the first and last times each day. They also sent fewer text messages throughout their day and spent more time in ‘helper apps,’ such as the phone’s clock app and Siri’s suggestions.”

The Healthy participants

MIT Technology Review note they not only type more slowly but less regularly than healthy participants and were less likely to fill in surveys. Results were present at an event in Alaska; this was at the Association for Computing Machinery’s conference in Anchorage. Why this matters. Conor Hale in FierceBiotech the data they gather from a person’s day-to-day life can clue us in to the subtle signs of encroaching Alzheimer’s disease.

Charlotte Jee, MIT Technology Review: “It can take a long time to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease correctly, because its early symptoms are subtle and easy to dismiss as ‘normal aging.’ Accelerating that process would help the nearly 500,000 people diagnose with Alzheimer’s every year in the US alone.” The study present initial results, but what’s next? The study authors recognize that it will require further research.

“Early” appears to be the key word in naming the benefits of this approach. Nikki Marinsek, a data scientist at Evidation; was quote in FierceBiotech. “The results of the trial set the ground work for future research that may be able to help identify people with neurodegenerative conditions earlier than ever before.”