Apple Watch research study will monitor for possible cognitive decline

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Your Apple Watch can check your heart health. How about your cognitive health too?
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Whether it’s heart health or exercise routines, there are plenty of biometrics Apple Watch can keep tabs on. But could it also be used to monitor cognitive performance and possible decline?

That’s the basis of a new, multi-year observational research study announced Monday. A collaboration between Apple and neuroscience company Biogen, the aim is to assess the role the Apple wearable and the iPhone could play in measuring cognitive health.

New study will launch in 2021

A press release notes that:

“The multi-year, observational research study will be launched later in 2021… [It 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 [mild cognitive impairment (MCI)].”

Finding patterns in cognitive activity

The goal of this project is to shed light on some of the subtle patterns that can indicate cognitive decline. It will do this by mapping data gathered from the Apple device with cognitive information provided by users. The organizers designed the study with data security and privacy in mind. Participants are free to stop their involvement at any time. Apple and Biogen have not yet announced an exact launch date for the study.

“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, in a statement. “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.”

Tim Cook has said that he believes Apple’s health-oriented efforts could wind up being the company’s lasting legacy. Apple debuted its Research app in late 2019.

Have you participated in any Apple Research studies yet? You can download the Apple Research app for iPhone today.

Source: Biogen