Wearables emerge for cognitive health monitoring
Wearables emerge for cognitive health monitoring

Wearables emerge for cognitive health monitoring

A new UK partnership is aiming to use wearables to monitor mentally ill patients.

Wearables that track your paces, distance travelled and calories burned are now a well-established part of everyday life. However, a new partnership between Cambridge Cognition and Ctrl Group wants to take the concept further and develop assessment and monitoring wearables for mental ill health.

Cambridge Cognition says that in the UK alone, one in four adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem each year, and with an estimated half a billion people affected worldwide, the cost to global economies is on course to exceed $6 trillion per annum by 2030.

Common mental health disorders such as dementia, depression and anxiety are characterised by symptoms that can fluctuate regularly. Until now this has created difficulties for researchers and healthcare professionals as infrequent assessments in medical settings are unable to reflect a patient’s health between visits or in everyday life.

By engaging with individuals through wearable and smart devices, technology can provide a richer and more natural profile of mental health to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of cognitive disorders, helping people to lead fuller, more active lives and dramatically reduce global healthcare costs.

The two companies in the partnership are well placed to develop new products to address this area. Cambridge Cognition is a global science and technology company, developer of the world’s leading neuropsychological assessment technology and provider of expert scientific services. It supports universities, pharmaceutical companies, biotechs and healthcare providers with products and services to improve mental health research, diagnosis and treatment.

Ctrl Group is 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. Current projects include creating a platform for running medical studies around dementia care on smartphones for Nesta’s Health Lab and the Department of Health.

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Wearables in testing phase

Under the terms of the new partnership, digital health products are being designed and developed enabling near-user cognitive testing on wearables and other smart devices.

A Cambridge Cognition spokesperson explained to Internet of Business: “Near-user testing is a research approach where an individual takes an assessment in their own environment rather than in a clinical or controlled setting. The benefit of this approach when data is captured over multiple time-points is that a richer profile of data for the individual is attained as it is gathered in a natural ‘real-world’ setting.”

The spokesperson continued “We are focused on developing a prototype to collect user-data and provide scientific validation. This can then be licensed to commercial partners for monitoring cognition across a range of neurological disorders, measuring different aspects of cognitive function based on their area of research. The initial prototype will focus on monitoring areas of cognition impaired in depression and other affective disorders.”

In broader healthcare populations, more meaningful cognitive data will enable practitioners to detect mental health risk factors early, reduce the likelihood of relapse and, by tracking daily activity, help individuals to better understand and manage their own cognitive health and wellbeing.

Dr Jenny Barnett, director of healthcare innovation at Cambridge Cognition, told IoB: “Wearables have really taken off as a way for people to monitor and manage their physical health. We think the time is right for something similar in mental health. Patient-facing apps might be a softer way for healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies to engage with patients to help them learn more about their symptoms, understand how the drug works, and understand the importance of taking medication in the right way. Ideally these apps will also measure outcomes and demonstrate to patients that a therapeutic is having a positive effect.”