A Smartphone App Could Be An Early Dementia Detection Tool

This month, another successful MedTech-related study has been released by the University Of California, San Francisco where smartphone apps could be a tool for early detection of frontotemporal dementia, abbreviated as FTD. This type specifically, is a major cause of dementia in those under the age of 60.

The research shows that on top of being reliable, cognitive tests made with our smartphones can detect the FTD in its early stages. This is including those who are genetically predisposed, and can be detected way before the symptoms even begin to manifest.

Dr. Adam Staffaroni, a clinical neuropsychologist at UCSF, points out, “This could be a game-changer for participation in clinical trials, especially in a condition like FTD that often hits in midlife.”


How Effective Are Smartphone Cognitive Tests?


The study engaged 360 participants, who were tasked with completing app-based cognitive tests. These tests, which assess executive functioning and associative memory, showed impressive reliability and were able to distinguish between individuals with and without dementia accurately.

Surprisingly, they outperformed traditional neuropsychological assessments like the Montreal Cognitive Assessment in detecting the earliest stages of FTD.


The Advantages Of Mobile Technology In Dementia Research


This innovative approach to dementia screening offers several benefits:

Early Detection: The ability to detect FTD early in genetically predisposed individuals is a great advancement, potentially allowing for earlier interventions.

Broadened Access to Clinical Trials: By simplifying participation through remote assessments, more people can contribute to FTD research.

Data Collection: The app’s capability to gather detailed data, including voice recordings and body movements, opens new avenues for developing diagnostic and monitoring tools.


What Difficulties Do Researchers Face?


The main task is to make the app simple to use and effective for a wide range of people. Dr. Adam Boxer, at the forefront of the study, mentions, “Diagnosing FTD often happens quite late because symptoms are misunderstood for psychiatric issues.”

Making the app accessible to people with different levels of comfort with technology and in various languages is essential.

Technical aspects such as simplifying instructions and adjusting app tasks to be inclusive are also critical. Feedback indicated that some participants struggled with tasks like the go/no-go test, signaling a need to enhance user experience.


Why Is Early Detection So Important?


Spotting FTD early can change the lives of patients and their families. Catching the disease before symptoms are fully apparent could allow for early interventions.

The study shows the app’s effectiveness in catching early signs of FTD in genetically predisposed individuals. “Identifying FTD early opens up possibilities for slowing down the disease,” says Dr. Boxer, pointing out the value of early intervention.


Essential Features For An Effective FTD Diagnostic App


In order to build a useful and effective app, the following should be considered:


  • User-friendly interface
  • Clear instructions for each task
  • Accessibility features for those with disabilities
  • Multi-language support
  • Data privacy and security measures
  • Compatibility with a range of devices
  • Regular updates based on the latest research


Other Conditions That Smartphones Are Assisting In Detecting


This is one of many great inventions that are helping in early detection. Other conditions include:




Melanoma is a serious skin cancer. Smartphones, according to studies, can help with detection by doing the following:

Store-and-Forward Teledermatology: this method lets patients send pictures of their skin to doctors remotely. It’s been shown to speed up the process of getting medical care, reducing the wait time from about 80 days to less than 10 days, according to a study led by researchers including the Department of General Practice in Faculty of Medicine at the University of Nantes in France.

Improving Access: smartphone use makes it easier for people to get a dermatologist’s opinion, especially in places where it’s hard to find one.


Other Forms Of Cancer


Smartphones are helping in the fight against other forms of cancer in other ways:


Early Detection

Specially designed attachments for smartphones can capture highly detailed images of tumours and abnormal tissues.
These images assist doctors in spotting cancer at its earliest stages when treatment is most effective.


Diagnostic Apps

There are apps available that analyse data from blood samples to identify cancer cells.
Using algorithms, these apps can detect differences between healthy and cancerous cells, aiding in early diagnosis.


Treatment Support

Smartphone apps remind patients to take medication and track their symptoms.
This helps patients manage their treatment schedule and communicate effectively with their doctors.