Apple is working on iPhone features to detect anxiety, cognitive decline

Apple is reportedly working on new iPhone features to detect depression, anxiety and cognitive decline, sources familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal

The company is working with the University of California, Los Angeles and Biogen to analyze data including sleep patterns, mobility, facial expressions, heart and respiration rates to see if they could signal mental health illnesses. WSJ notes that the data won’t be sent to Apple servers.

The iPhone-maker first announced its partnership with The University of California, Los Angeles in August 2020. UCLA is now studying stress, anxiety and depression, and will analyze the Apple Watch and iPhone data of 3,000 volunteers this year. Apple codenamed the project ‘Seabreeze’, according to the sources. 

Researchers will then compare data collected from participants’ iPhones and Apple Watch sensors with their responses to questionnaires asking how they feel. They are also analyzing the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in follicles of participants’ hair, according to one of the sources and documents reviewed by the WSJ. 

On the other hand, Biogen’s study focuses on detecting cognitive decline and mild cognitive impairment which can develop into Alzheimer’s. The pharmaceutical firm first announced the 2-years project in January this year and will analyze the data of 20,000 participants, around half of whom are at high risk of cognitive impairment, in a way similar to the UCLA’s method. According to the sources and documents, Apple codenamed the project ‘Pi’. 

If researchers find a way to diagnose mental illnesses with iPhone and Apple Watch sensors, Apple could roll out such features over the next few years.

However, the studies are still in their early stages and there is no guarantee that Apple will make such an attempt.

Written by Sophie Blake

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