Apple working on technology to diagnose depression, cognitive decline: report

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Apple is reportedly developing new health care software to diagnose and screen for signs of depression in users, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Diagnoses would be generated with a bevy of user data, ranging from physical activity levels, sleep patterns, mobility, typing behavior and other health information.

Apple developers are looking to use the data to refine algorithms that can detect signs of depression and other targeted mental health conditions.

The software is part of a joint effort between Apple and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as well as researchers from Biogen, a biotechnology company specializing in neurological diseases. Together, the entities are studying anxiety, depression and stress as they relate to mild cognitive impairment.

The Journal notes the project with UCLA’s codename is “Seabreeze,” while the parallel research is called “Pi.”

UCLA’s study involves tracking data from the iPhone’s video camera, keyboard and audio inputs to eventually cross-reference with other health patterns to screen for depression or anxiety. With more data used to detect patterns in user’s mental health, algorithms will become more precise and accurately detect various mental illnesses. 

With this function, Apple and Biogen are slated to collaborate on a new app that works on early detection for mild cognitive impairments. 

The Hill reached out to Apple for comment. 

Apple has steadily branched out into health care software, most notably with its Apple Watch. The smartwatch is armed with several features that can collect, analyze, and monitor user health data like heart rate, respiratory activity, physical activity metrics, and even if a user has taken a severe fall.

The company also updated its storage for users to keep track of health care records on their phones with the Health app. One of the more recent updates in Apple’s health care features include enhanced analytics for users to monitor their health patterns. Users are also able to share this data with their physicians. 

“This past year has emphasized the importance of health, and we’re enabling our users to take a more active role in their well-being. We’ve added powerful features that give users the most comprehensive set of insights to better understand their health trends over time,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, in a press release.

The Apple Watch also now includes a new Mindfulness app aimed at promoting mental health and emphasizing positive thought patterns. 

Apple has said that users have full control over this data and who is able to access it.


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