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A new study has revealed that utilising an iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad and the Beddit sleep monitoring device, in combination with digital apps, may be able to differentiate people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia.

The feasibility study was conducted by Eli Lilly and Company, Evidation Health and Apple, and could revolutionise the way in which Alzheimer’s is detected.

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen how data and insights derived from wearables and mobile consumer devices have enabled people living with health conditions, along with their clinicians, to better monitor their health,” said Nikki Marinsek, Ph.D., a first author and data scientist at Evidation Health. “We know that insights from smart devices and digital applications can lead to improved health outcomes, but we don’t yet know how those resources can be used to identify and accelerate diagnoses.

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“The results of the trial set the groundwork for future research that may be able to help identify people with neurodegenerative conditions earlier than ever before.”

The exploratory results were at the Association for Computing Machinery’s KDD conference and are published on the conference website.

Divakar Ramakrishnan, Ph.D., Lilly’s chief digital officer, added: “While further research is needed, the study findings provide important insight into the potential benefits of wearable devices in identifying chronic health conditions such as MCI, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.

“These findings could inform subsequent research that may eventually lead to early screening or detection tools for neurodegenerative conditions.”

In ways not previously detected through common clinical screening tools, data obtained through the use of Apple devices suggested an ability to differentiate between individuals with mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia, and those without symptoms.

The 12-week study evaluated 113 participants, ages 60-75, in real-world settings, to determine whether Apple devices, in combination with mobile applications, were able to help identify cognitive and behavioural differences among the study participants.

Evidation Health collected and analysed data from study participants across a number of sources, including: passively derived sensor data from the smart devices, questionnaires about mood and energy, and simple assessment activities on the Digital Assessment App.

The App included psychomotor tasks, such as dragging one shape onto another or tapping a circle as fast and as regularly as possible, reading tasks and a typing task.

“With further study, we may be able to screen people at high risk or detect dementia and Alzheimer’s earlier with the devices we use in our everyday lives,” said Christine Lemke, Co-Founder and President of Evidation Health. “These early findings suggest the potential of novel digital measures that are based on data generated and controlled by individuals.”

The findings of the exploratory study suggest that wearable devices could enable solutions that may help identify when people are starting to experience cognitive decline.

Specifically, these results show that Apple devices and digital applications may have the potential to:

  • Monitor symptoms of people diagnosed with MCI or mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia
  • Detect cognitive changes that could be indicative of MCI
  • Test the efficacy of treatments and therapies
  • Accelerate the development of therapies used in conjunction with traditional diagnostic tools to improve accuracy of diagnoses.

Eli Lilly and Company creates medicines that aim to enhance the lives of people around the world.

Evidation Health is a health and measurement company that provides innovative life sciences and health care companies the technology and expertise they need to understand how everyday behaviour and health interact.

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