Can Digital Devices Identify Alzheimer’s?

Most people rely on their handheld devices a means of communication, alarm clock, access to social media, watch, camera, and calendar these days. However, this technology could have even more use, as a recent study showed digital devices could help distinguish between mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s disease.

Research conducted by Eli Lilly and Company, Evidation Health, and Apple Inc. found that using an iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad or Beddit sleep monitoring technology as well as digital apps could help identify if the user is suffering from dementia or not.

The results, which were revealed at the Association for Computing Machinery’s KDD conference last week, found Apple devices could determine the difference between those with MCI and mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia.

Nikki Marinsek, first author of the study and scientist at Evidation Health, said: “Insights from smart devices and digital applications can lead to improved health outcomes but we don’t yet know how those resources can be used to identify and accelerate diagnoses. The results of the trial set the groundwork for future research that may be able to help identify people with neurodegenerative conditions earlier than ever before.”

The study took 12 weeks and saw 113 participants aged between 60 and 75 years old taking part. They were asked to fill out questionnaires about mood and energy, and undergo simple activities that assessed their cognitive skills.

This study suggests that such devices could help determine when people begin to experience a decline in their mental abilities, allowing them to receive support as soon as possible.

While Alzheimer’s disease is most common in older people, more than 40,000 people under the age of 65 in the UK suffer from dementia.

According to the NHS, it affects one in 14 people over 65 and one in six over 80. However, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease means one in 20 sufferers are between 40 and 65.

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