Apple hopes to use iPhone data to monitor mental health
Apple hopes to use iPhone data to monitor mental health

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Apple is investigating the use of the iPhone to diagnose depression, anxiety and cognitive decline techniques with the goal of finding tools that can add to its burgeoning portfolio of health products.

Using a range of sensor data, including mobility, physical activity, sleep patterns, writing behavior, and more, the researchers hope to elicit digital cues related to target conditions to create algorithms that reliably detect them.

Other measurements may include analysis of facial expressions, heart rate, and respiratory rate. All processing is done on the device without any data being sent to Apple's servers.

Apple hopes that this will become the basis for the unique characteristics of its devices. These efforts are due to the research partnership announced by the company.

The University of California study, codenamed Seabreeze, examines stress, anxiety and depression.

Although the research is codenamed Pi with the pharmaceutical company Biogen, it studied MCI.

UCLA uses data from the Apple Watch and iPhone to study stress, anxiety and depression. This data was followed up by up to 3,000 volunteers in a study that began this year. The pilot phase began in 2020 and collected data from 150 participants.

The researchers compared data captured by sensors on the iPhone and Apple Watch with questionnaires that participants filled out about their feelings.

They should also be able to measure levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the participants' hair follicles. The company and UCLA announced the three-year study in August 2020.

Another ongoing research project could be a factor in the business plan. Apple and pharmaceutical company Biogen announced in January that they were conducting a two-year study to monitor cognitive function and identify possible mild cognitive dysfunction that can lead to silent Alzheimer's disease.

The program aims to support about 20,000 participants, about half of whom are at risk of developing dementia.

The company also has a research project with Duke University to develop an algorithm to detect children with autism, including using an iPhone camera to monitor the attention of young children.

Your Apple phone might notice you're frustrated before you know it

If the research data matches symptoms of depression or anxiety, companies can use it to create a feature that warns users when they see signs of mental health.

The iPhone could lead users to seek treatment, which could be important because early detection can improve long-term quality of life.

The company and its partners are still in the early stages of this work. As such, it could take at least a few years for the company to add mental health monitoring to the iPhone. There is no guarantee that searches will lead to such features.

Some previous studies have shown that people with certain medical conditions use devices differently than others.

It is not clear if developers can create algorithms that can reliably and accurately identify mental health problems.

In recent years, the company has paid increasing attention to health. Hence, characteristics based on this research may eventually emerge.

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