Apple Smart Devices May Soon Help Identify Alzheimer’s Disease

Neurodegenerative diseases are incurable and take a long time to be diagnosed. The Alzheimer’s disease (AD), particularly, cannot be detected at its initial stages as its earliest symptoms are dismissed as ‘normal aging.’ However, now smart devices and digital apps may be of some help to speed up the process by tracking the very first signs of dementia from a healthy control.

study conducted by Evidation Health on behalf of Eli Lilly and tech giant Apple has explored the feasibility of using smart devices and digital apps to differentiate individuals with mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer’s disease. MCI is the high-functioning, pre-dementia stage of AD that does not yet affect the ability to function at work or daily activities.
In a 12-week study, authors collected a total of 16TB data from a total of 113 participants, aged between 60 to 75. Out of these, 31 monitored people with cognitive impairment and 82 people without the condition. The sample was asked to use an iPhone as their primary phone, along with the Apple Watch, an iPad with a smart keyboard and the Beddit Sleep Monitor.
Researchers hoped to see the lulling effects of the disease in the form of low reading and typing speed and dragging one shape onto another or tapping a circle. The mood, sleep patterns, and energy, as well as motor control, were also studied extensively by means of regular surveys.
As the results came through, researchers noted that the symptomatic participants indeed typed slowly and showed less routine behavior, with respect to the times when they picked up and put down their phones for the first and the last time, each day. They sent fewer text messages and spent more time on ‘helper apps’ such as the phone’s clock and Siri recommendations. Not only did they type very slowly but also, were less likely to fill the surveys.
This study matters because the data was gathered from a person’s day-to-day life. Findings of this research can lay a groundwork to approach Alzheimer’s disease better and sooner and also, develop detection tools for dementia.

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