Biogen launches a new study to find out if the Apple Watch and iPhone can monitor cognitive decline

The Apple Watch has evolved into one of the best health and fitness devices on the market. And Apple certainly isn’t slowing down in its own right. But of course, other companies have relied on Apple’s devices for their own heath-related studies, and now another is in the works.

Today, Biogen Inc. announced a new, “pioneering study”, which will be virtual, in collaboration with Apple to study cognitive decline in individuals. To help with that, Biogen will use not only the Apple Watch, but also the iPhone to develop biomarkers. The goal? To see if these devices can monitor cognitive performance and screening. That includes for mild cognitive impairment, or 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.

Apple Watch Excercise Goal

MCI impacts quite a few people, with a 15 to 20 percent impact in adults over the age of 65. Symptoms can be subtle, too, so it may go undetected for long stretches depending on the person’s situation. Memory loss and being easily distracted are just a pair of symptoms that can indicate MCI or other cognitive impairments.

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.

The virtual study will allow adults to join the program, which, as mentioned above, will begin later this year. Data security and user privacy will be baked into the study, and participants will be able to abandon the study whenever they see fit. Users will sign a consent form seeing just how much data is being tracked in the study, along with how much will be shared and used. All data will be encrypted.

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.

The study launches later this year.