Apple and Biogen announce new research study to investigate how Apple Watch can detect declines in cognitive health


Medial research firm Biogen today announced a new collaboration with Apple in the form of a cognitive health research study, powered by iPhone and Apple Watch. The study is trying to identify digital biomarkers that can serve as early indicators of illnesses like Alzheimer’s.

The observational research study will commence later in the year. The companies aim to find patterns in the data collected by sensors in the Apple Watch and iPhone and correlate those to declines in cognitive health function.

If successful, doctors may eventually be able to prescribe treatments earlier in people’s lives, and help reduce the debilitating effects of these kind of mental illnesses.

In the press release, Apple COO Jeff Williams said Apple looks forward to delivering better health outcomes through improved detection of declining cognitive 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.”

Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos said that finding digital biomarkers signalling changes in brain health will “accelerate patient diagnoses and empower physicians and individuals to take timely action”.

The virtual study will likely be rolled out through the Apple Research app. As expected, it will be conducted with privacy in mind. Participants will be told about exactly what data is being collected upfront and can leave the study at any time.

The Apple Research app currently features studies covering heart and movement, women’s health and hearing levels.

Apple first began working with medical institutions back in 2017 with the first Apple Heart Study, run by Stanford researchers. The study was highly successful with participation from more than 400,000 Apple Watch users and led to the release of the irregular heart rate rhythm notifications as an Apple Watch feature available to all.

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