Biogen has announced a collaboration with Apple to study the role of Apple Watch and iPhone in monitoring cognitive performance and screening for decrease in cognitive health including mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

The US biotech firm said that its multi-year, observational research study will enrol participants with varying cognitive performance, and is expected to begin later in 2021.

The study is designed to leverage the technology in Apple Watch and iPhone, and Biogen’s extensive knowledge in the neuroscience field.

Developing digital biomarkers to facilitate monitoring of cognitive performance over time and identify early signs of MCI are the primary objectives of the study.

Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos said: “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.

“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.”

Biogen will encrypt study data in systems with enhanced security controls

According to the company, cognitive health has become an important component of overall health for aging adults. The symptoms range from being easily distracted to memory loss, and take months to years before cognitive decline is observed.

Biogen said that its virtual study would enable users across the aging lifespan to join, and is designed considering customer privacy, control and transparency along with data security.

The study participants who wish to discontinue from the study are required to complete a detailed consent form listing the collected data types and how each may be used and shared.

In the study, the data will be stored in an encrypted manner and in systems with enhanced security controls designed to protect the data.

Apple chief operating officer Jeff Williams said: “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.

“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.”