Apple Working on iPhone Feature to Help Detect Depression, Anxiety, and Cognitive Decline

Apple is reportedly working on a feature that could help detect depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline in its users. The company believes that it is able to implement the feature within iPhone and use an array of sensor data to create algorithms associated with these conditions.

Apple has partnered with the University of California, Los Angeles, which studies stress, depression, and mental health and Biogen, a company studying cognitive impairment. According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple believes that it will be able to use sensor data gathered by mobility, physical activity, sleep patterns, typing behaviour and more to asset whether a user is suffering from depression, anxiety or otherwise. This is said to be another step in the company’s campaign to increase its health initiatives.

The efforts spring from research partnerships that Apple has announced with the University of California, Los Angeles, which is studying stress, anxiety and depression, and pharmaceutical company Biogen which is studying mild cognitive impairment. “Seabreeze” is Apple’s code name for the UCLA project and “Pi” is the code name for the Biogen project, according to the people and documents.”

Apple’s focus on user health has often relied on the Apple Watch to facilitate heart rate data, fitness milestones, and more. The iPhone, on the other hand, hasn’t been the focus as of late. This research will more heavily rely on data shared from the iPhone.

The study from UCLA will begin tracking 3,000 volunteers this year. Biogen’s study seeks to research 20,000 volunteers over the next two years. The study itself is still said to be in its early stages. In order to maintain privacy, Apple will not be sending any data to its servers. Instead, the data needed for the diagnosis will be carried out on the user’s device only.

There’s no saying this research will amount to a breakthrough for Apple. However, Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, who oversees Apple’s Health sector remains hopeful.

Even though the effort is at an early stage, top Apple executives are excited about the possibility. Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, who oversees Apple’s health unit, has spoken enthusiastically to employees about the company’s potential to address surging rates of depression and anxiety as well as other brain disorders, according to people who have heard him talk about the efforts.

Biogen is partnering with Apple on the study in hopes that it can help develop an iPhone feature to detect mild cognitive impairment early and encourage users to seek care. Mild cognitive impairment can be associated with Alzheimer’s disease.