Biogen, a medtech company based in Massachusetts, is partnering with Apple in a research study to investigate the role Apple Watch and iPhone could play in monitoring cognitive performance and screening for the decline in cognitive health including mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
The multi-year, observational research study will be launched later in 2021 and will enroll participants including young and aging adults with a range of cognitive performance. 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.
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, according to Biogen.
The virtual study allows adult users across the aging lifespan to join. The study has been designed with customer privacy, control, and transparency in mind as well as data security.
“Ensuring data privacy and security is paramount to both Biogen and Apple,” Maha Radhakrishnan, Chief Medical Officer at Biogen, told Conn Hastings in Medgadget. “The study has been designed with customer privacy, control, and transparency in mind as well as data security. Prior to completing any study assessments, participants will complete a detailed consent form listing the collected data types and how they may be used and shared. Study participants can withdraw from the study at any time, which will end any future data collection. Data will be stored in an encrypted manner and in systems with strong security controls designed to protect the data,” she said.
“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,” said Michel Vounatsos, CEO at Biogen. “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.”
“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,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “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.”