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Digital biomarkers for dementia

Digital biomarkers for dementia research

Led by Francine Jury & Dr Iracema Leroi, University of Manchester, in association with Greater Manchester Mental Health Foundation Trust, and mHabitat

Wearable devices and sensor technology present an unprecedented opportunity to look at real time picture of health, activity and experiences of a dementia patient population in a clinical trial setting. For this population, activity levels, and sleep patterns are more difficult to measure where sleep disorders and mobility problems may present. Interim results from an on-going feasibility study (www.ecygnus.com) indicate such devices are acceptable in the dementia patient population but many people lack the technology or the confidence or willingness to use app based systems. There is also the issue of reported versus experienced activity and sleep due to a lack of accuracy and tailoring of the sensors to this population. In this patient population there may be a need for multiple sensors to determine cognitive and behavioural changes, and other key indicators of living well with dementia. Understanding the targets for the design is challenging, but effectively interpreting the resulting signals, should help to determine the impact of an intervention, for example, a new drug or a psychosocial therapy and eventually support personalised mental health intervention decision making. Individuals living with dementia invariably have co-morbidities to varying degrees that impact quality of life and produce “sensor noise”. A device that can be personalised to an individual would be necessary to get a full picture of their “digital” health before, during and after an intervention takes place in order to identify subsequent behavioural change. There is much interest in using such devices in clinical trials however they are not aimed at older people with dementia, who have unique challenges to address.

Presentation from the Stage 1 Update Workshop, November 2017