iPhones could spot early signs of dementia

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Couple with iPad
A decline in how someone uses an iPhone or iPad could be an early indication of mild cognitive impairment.
Photo: Pexels

Researchers from Apple and Eli Lilly looked into whether the ways people use their iPhone and Apple Watch can warn of mild cognitive impairment, a condition that’s difficult to diagnose.

Their pilot program had some early success.

The feasibility study, which also included researchers from Evidation, was intended to see if off-the-shelf electronics could find early signs of dementia. The abstract for their research says “We present a platform for remote and unobtrusive monitoring of symptoms related to cognitive impairment using several consumer-grade smart devices.”

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) involves mental difficulties beyond what is to be expected from someone’s age. They don’t interfere with daily activities. Diagnosing it is nevertheless important because MCI can serve as an early stage of dementia.

Going to take more research

The research project done by Apple, Eli Lilly and Evidation went on for 12 weeks, and compared 31 people known to have cognitive impairment with 82 people without it.

Evidation co-founder Christine Lemke told CNBC that the study indicated that those with MCI typed slower and communicated less. However, the researchers weren’t yet ready to draw any definite conclusions from their study.