Software for wearables can measure brain health
12 August 2016
Mental health conditions are now the leading causes of disability worldwide. With more than 450 million people living with mental illnesses the costs of treatment and care to global economies is predicted to double by 2030 to over $6 trillion (World Health Organization).
A team of scientists and software designers in the UK has developed new wearable software to aid early intervention and monitoring of conditions affecting the brain.
Neurological conditions are commonly characterised by day-to-day variability in symptoms like mood, anxiety, and problems with concentration and memory. This fluctuation impacts the daily lives of those living with the conditions, for example making it more difficult to make advance plans, perform consistently at school or in work, or maintain steady relationships. Standard infrequent clinical tests by doctors or researchers cannot detect this variability in symptoms, so it is often ignored, missed, or leads to an inaccurate diagnosis.
Cognition Kit is a wearable software platform that will enable doctors, scientists and the public to better understand and manage day-to-day brain health by accurately measuring biological and psychological factors affecting cognitive performance more frequently.
The results of the study, presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference, found that for the first time wearable consumer devices could be used to accurately measure cognition and brain health using Cognition Kit.
The technology could now help improve the development of disease-modifying treatments, treat mental health conditions at the earliest opportunity and objectively measure patient outcomes as a means of reducing the health and economic burden of mental illness.
During the study participants wore a wearable device to monitor their levels of stress and physiological activation using built-in sensors of heart rate, galvanic skin response and skin temperature. The study used the Microsoft Band 2, a fitness tracker with smartwatch features, selected for its extensive sensors. Cognition Kit however is being developed to be compatible with use on all major wearable brands.
Throughout each day of the study, subjects were prompted to complete quick micro tests of cognition on the Band. These game-like tests measured attention, memory and reaction speed at different times of day.
Over 30 million data points were recorded during the two week study, which has shown distinct patterns of performance within and across days, allowing a rich picture of subjects’ cognitive function to emerge. This has the potential to provide a powerful tool for researchers, complementing traditional infrequent and in-depth testing.
After each cognitive game, subjects reported how they felt by selecting one of six faces to convey their current mood. On June 24th, the day of the EU referendum results in the UK, the researchers even observed a significant drop in the general mood of the British participants in the study.
Cognition Kit are now seeking commercial partners and expect to sign first contracts in the coming months following significant interest from pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers wanting to reliably demonstrate the outcomes of treatments and detect early indicators of mental health conditions before further damage is done.
Francesca Cormack, PhD, Director of Research and Innovation, Cambridge Cognition commented: “This proof of concept study demonstrates that for the first time, these consumer devices are making possible the rapid collection of largescale scientific datasets. This not only allows dramatically more detailed knowledge of moment-by-moment brain function, but also opens up new possibilities to develop machine learning algorithms that will allow earlier detection and intervention in brain disorders.”
Ben Fehnert, Co-founder of Ctrl Group and Director of Cognition Kit commented: “Simple, regular interaction with peoples own phones and wearable devices is key to helping understand daily and longer term fluctuations in cognitive function. This study is the first demonstration of how Cognition Kit software can build a rich picture of brain health using peoples own devices during their daily lives.”
Notes to editors
About Cognition Kit
Cognition Kit is a joint venture between Cambridge Cognition and Ctrl Group formed in 2016 to develop digital health tools on mobile and wearable devices. Cognition Kit software takes research out of the lab and into daily life, enabling doctors, scientists and the public to better understand and manage day-to-day brain health.
About Cambridge Cognition
Cambridge Cognition is a neuroscience digital health company specialising in the precise measurement of clinical outcomes in neurological disorders. The Company develops and markets validated near patient assessment products using cognition as a biomarker to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders worldwide.
Partners include the world’s leading biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions and public-private health organisations.
About Ctrl Group
Ctrl Group believe that new technologies have the potential to transform healthcare and medical research by increasing efficiency and creating more personalised medicine. We are a team of designers, researchers, software developers and healthcare experts who work internationally with healthcare companies and providers who want to use new technology to improve people’s health.