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Biogen to develop digital biomarkers of cognitive health

Biogen has announced a new virtual research study, in collaboration with Apple, to investigate the role Apple Watch and iPhone could play in monitoring cognitive performance and screening for decline in cognitive health including mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

The multi-year, observational research study will be launched later in 2021 and will enroll participants including young and aging adults with a range of cognitive performance. Driven by the technology in Apple Watch and iPhone and Biogen’s 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 MCI, states the company.

The virtual study allows adult users across the aging lifespan to join. The study has been designed with customer privacy, control and transparency in mind as well as data security. Participants, who can stop taking part in the study at any time, will complete a detailed consent form listing the collected data types and how each may be used and shared. Data will be stored in an encrypted manner and in systems with strong security controls designed to protect the data.

Early symptom of neurodegenerative diseases and dementia

“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,” says Michel Vounatsos, CEO at Biogen. “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.”

Brain health

“This is terrific news for all of us who are interested in our brain health,” says George Vradenburg, Chairman and Cofounder of Us Against Alzheimer’s, a patient-led non-profit pushing to prevent dementia through ongoing attention to brain health. “Just as we today use new digital and mobile tools to help us monitor and improve our cardiovascular health, this new study will help us learn how to use those same tools to monitor and improve our brain health. We have learned repeatedly that detecting disease at its earliest stage is our best bet to treat it effectively. To that end, this exciting study could enable us to learn how to get early warning signs of cognitive decline which may be addressed through lifestyle and therapeutic changes designed to slow or stop the progression of brain disease.”

“We have learned repeatedly that detecting disease at its earliest stage is our best bet to treat it effectively. To that end, this exciting study could enable us to learn how to get early warning signs of cognitive decline which may be addressed through lifestyle and therapeutic changes designed to slow or stop the progression of brain disease.”

“Strategies that optimize brain health and improve cognitive function are the key to reducing the risk of dementia and this study has the potential to discover transformative ways to monitor and assess brain health,” says Nora Super, executive director of the Milken Institute Alliance to Improve Dementia Care. “We are always eager to see technological innovation, and we are particularly interested in the user convenience of data collected through the use of everyday devices like Apple Watch and iPhone. This type of innovation may enhance our understanding of the aging brain and therefore may ultimately help us understand how to maintain and improve brain health throughout adulthood.”