Apple develops iPhone features to detect depression and cognitive decline


In an effort to expand the ability of iPhones to detect health issues, Apple teamed up with the University of California at Los Angeles for a mental health study and drugmaker Biogen for a study focused on the cognitive decline, people familiar with the matter said. The Wall Street Journal.

The news signals that Apple’s health department is looking to launch condition detection features in the company’s flagship iPhone. Here are five things to know about projects:

  1. Apple’s code name for the UCLA project is “Seabreeze”. In fall 2020, researchers studied signs of stress, anxiety, and depression in a pilot phase of Apple Watch and iPhone data tracking of 150 people. This year, the project will move to a main phase of monitoring similar data for 3,000 people.
  2. Seabreeze researchers are tracking data from the iPhone’s video camera, keyboard, and audio sensors. From the Apple Watch, they track motion, vital signs and sleep data. The data can be used to analyze facial expressions, gaits, speaking patterns, sleeping patterns, heart and breathing rates of participants. It can also be used to measure typing speed, frequency of typos, and the content of what they type.
  3. If Seabreeze researchers find the data correlates with mental health issues, Apple could roll out a feature that warns iPhone and Apple Watch users that they may be at risk and urges them to seek treatment. .
  4. Apple’s code name for its project with Biogen is “Pi”. The companies are working together on a two-year study to include around 2,000 participants, half of whom are at high risk for dementia. Pi researchers will use the data from the device, much like researchers at Seabreeze, to track signs of mild cognitive impairment.
  5. Apple will compare Pi’s data to standard brain health tests. The hope is that Apple can deploy a feature to detect mild cognitive impairment early and encourage users to seek treatment.


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