Biogen and Apple have announced that they will collaborate on a new virtual research study investigating the role of smart devices could have on monitoring cognitive health.

The multi-year, observational study will evaluate the role that Apple Watch and iPhone could play in monitoring cognitive performance and screening for decline in cognitive health, including mild cognitive impairment.

The study will launch later in 2021 and is set to enrol participants including young and ageing adults with a range of cognitive performance.

Its primary objectives are to develop digital biomarkers to help monitor cognitive performance over time and to identify the early signs of mild cognitive impairment.

“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,” said Michel Vounatsos, chief executive officer 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,” he added.

Although mild cognitive impairment impacts around 15-20% of adults over the age of 65, significant delays exist in identify declines in cognitive health.

The onset of symptoms for mild cognitive impairment are not always obvious, and can take months to years before cognitive decline comes to the attention of health care providers.