Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) partnered with pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) and health startup Evidation Health to study whether data collected from its popular devices can help spot the early signs of dementia. The researchers conducting the study have released a paper, titled “Developing Measures of Cognitive Impairment in the Real World from Consumer-Grade Multimodal Sensor Streams,” detailing their efforts to find ways to quickly and precisely detect cognitive impairments using three consumer gadgets: the iPhone, the Apple Watch, and the Beddit sleep monitor.
The research will be presented at the SIGKDD Conference on knowledge discovery and data mining being held in Alaska. The paper lists 15 authors, with five working for Apple, five working for Eli Lilly and five working for Evidation. Evidation co-founder Christine Lemke said in an interview, “With this research, we looked at how everyday behavior data, such as those captured by iPhones, Apple Watches, and Beddit sleep monitors, may be effective in differentiating between individuals with mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer’s disease, and those without symptoms.”
According to the World Health Organization, 50 million people around the world are living with dementia, including more than 6 million people in the U.S. Worldwide, roughly 10 million new cases are diagnosed annually. While the progression of the disease can’t be stopped, early detection can help with the management of symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life. However, early detection has proven to be a challenge.
In this latest study, the researchers looked at data from a control group of 82 healthy people and 31 individuals with varying stages of cognitive decline and dementia over a period of 12 weeks. Each participant was given an iPhone, an Apple Watch and a Beddit sleep tracker asked to avoid taking medications that might impact the results. The study ended up collecting 16TB of data.
After reviewing the results, the researchers found that those with cognitive impairment scored lower on a number of tasks. They were found to have typed less regularly and sent fewer text messages than healthy participants. They also typed more slowly and relied more on support apps. No long term conclusions were drawn from the study, with the researchers saying more data is needed.