Study shows promise for detecting mental health problems using smartphone app

A recent study using Mindstrong Health’s app that analyzes smartphone habits showed promise in predicting when mental health issues occur and why they happen.

The study, published in the journal NPJ Digital Medicine, used the smartphone app to collect user activity in 27 volunteers that helped healthcare providers measure a user’s daily habits and detect when those habits deviate. Called digital biomarkers, those habits, when linked with other social and environmental data, provided the information needed to predict mental health issues.

The Mindstrong app captures data on a user’s smartphone activity, including swipes, taps and keystroke events, which was used to identify more than 1,000 distinct digital biomarkers over a 7-day period.

“We believe that digital biomarkers are the foundation for measurement-based mental health care, for which there is a massive unmet patient need,” Dr. Paul Dagum, the study’s author and chief executive of Mindstrong, said in a statement. “To provide better mental health care, we need better ways to measure cognitive function and brain health that are quantitative, reproducible, continuous and objective.”

Mindstrong’s technology digests patterns of interaction by tracking which words are used or where and when calls are made and then turns them into objective measures of brain function. The passive app allows for day-to-day monitoring of patients with neuropsychological and neurodegenerative conditions without being intrusive.