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Phones, Wearables Studied to Monitor Brain Disorders

Woman with smartphone


27 April 2016. A project now underway in Europe plans to develop techniques for smartphones and wearable devices to monitor people with depression, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. The 5-year, €22 million ($US 25 million) initiative known as Remote assessment of disease and relapse – Central Nervous System, or Radar-CNS, is funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative, a joint program of the European Union and European pharmaceutical industry.

Radar-CNS aims to improve the quality of life for people with major depressive disorder, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis, who often have periods when symptoms are under control, but also episodes of deterioration and relapse. Surveys of people with these conditions cited by Radar-CNS indicate a need to better predict when these episodes will occur and provide treatments to prevent them from happening.

The initiative, led by Kings College London and the pharmaceutical company Janssen Pharmaceutica, says smartphones and wearable devices offer the opportunity to follow people with epilepsy, depression, and multiple sclerosis at a level of detail which was unachievable before. “It may be that this sort of data can improve clinical care simply by providing more accurate information,” says Matthew Hotopf, director of Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre, affiliated with Kings College London, in a university statement. “Better still, it may be possible to spot when a patient is getting into trouble before their clinic visit.”

Hotopf, co-leader of Radar-CNS, offers an example where “in depression, someone’s behavior may change even before they have noticed they are struggling. Their sleep may get worse, or they may stop doing so much in the weeks leading up to a relapse.”

Radar-CNS project teams are expected to identify characteristic bio-signatures that track different states of these disorders and predict relapse, develop algorithms for collecting and an infrastructure for analyzing the data collected, propose privacy and usability factors that encourage remote assessments, and identify solutions with the technologies that fit the workflows of caregivers and physicians, as well as meet requirements of regulatory authorities.

The project anticipates involving people with these disorders from the beginning to identify key symptoms, and implement these technologies in a way that engages the individuals, while safeguarding their privacy and security. The researchers plan to use available and inexpensive technologies to the extent possible, and design solutions that can be transferred to similar disorders.

In addition to Kings College London and Janssen Pharmaceutica, a division of Johnson & Johnson, some 22 other institutions, pharmaceutical, medical device, and software companies in Europe and the U.S. are taking part in Radar-CNS.

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Disclosure: The author owns shares in Johnson & Johnson.

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