Study : Smart Watches may detect Parkinson’s disease 7 years earlier

A new study has demonstrated that smartwatches have the potential to gather valuable data, enabling artificial intelligence (AI) systems to detect Parkinson’s disease up to seven years prior to the manifestation of noticeable symptoms.

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Recent research suggests that smartwatches, like the Apple Watch, have the potential to contribute data to AI models capable of detecting Parkinson’s disease long before patients exhibit noticeable symptoms. Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological disorder that commonly affects individuals aged 50 and above. Presently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s, and available treatments primarily focus on symptom management.

Detecting the disease at an earlier stage is of paramount importance in combating its progression. However, current diagnostic criteria heavily rely on patients displaying visible symptoms such as rigidity, tremors, and gradual decline in motor functions.

Nevertheless, a study has revealed that smartwatches can gather valuable data that, when analyzed using advanced AI algorithms, may enable the detection of Parkinson’s disease up to seven years prior to the manifestation of evident symptoms.

Researchers from the UK Dementia Research Institute (UKDRI) and the Neuroscience and Mental Health Innovation Institute (NMHII) at Cardiff University have suggested that smartwatches could serve as novel screening tools for Parkinson’s disease, according to a study highlighted by Euronews. During the study, data from 103,712 participants in the UK Biobank was analyzed. These individuals had worn a medical-grade smartwatch for a week between 2013 and 2016.

Although the Apple Watch was only available towards the end of the study period in 2015, the researchers noted that the newer Apple Watch models possess more advanced motion sensors compared to the devices used during most of the study.

The smartwatches collected data on the participants’ average acceleration over the course of a week. After analyzing this data, the algorithm employed in the study could accurately predict individuals who would subsequently develop Parkinson’s disease. The artificial intelligence (AI) system outperformed existing methods of early detection commonly employed by medical professionals.

In 2022, Rune Labs, a brain data firm, received clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to utilize the Apple Watch for monitoring Parkinson’s symptoms in patients. Apple itself has previously explored ways to employ the Apple Watch and iPhone in monitoring Parkinson’s symptoms. Furthermore, the company has filed a patent application for more advanced technologies that could aid in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

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