Researchers have developed a smartphone app that can diagnose dementia as well as clinical staff. This could save significant time and improve treatment outcomes.

For many people, the smartphone has become indispensable. But technology can not only help us communicate, but also help us diagnose diseases at an early stage. This is demonstrated by an app that can identify a major cause of early onset dementia in people at high risk.

At least that is what the current study results show. The scientists behind it demonstrated that cognitive tests carried out via a smartphone app should be at least as reliable as those carried out in a clinic.

To determine its effectiveness, they examined patients with signs of frontotemporal dementia. This is a neurological disorder that often occurs in middle age and contributes to the shrinking of certain parts of the brain.

Smartphone app diagnoses dementia using voice recording

As a result, those affected are impaired in skills such as planning and prioritizing tasks, filtering distractions and impulse control. About a third of these cases have a genetic cause. Nevertheless, there is still a lack of effective systems to diagnose and treat patients early. This is because certain treatment approaches are only effective in the early stages of the disease.

But smartphones could help with early diagnosis and evaluation. To investigate its usefulness in frontotemporal dementia, researchers worked with US-based software company Datacubed Health. The result is an app that records people's speech as they engage in various cognitive tests.

App remains unavailable to the public

The researchers came to the conclusion that the app can detect dementia in those affected just as well and in some cases even more reliably than evaluation in a clinic. In this way, the smartphone could establish itself as a reliable companion in diagnosis.

Still, there are no immediate plans to make the app available to the public. The team initially sees a possible use in supporting research into this disease. Monitoring treatment effects may also be possible to provide progress and status updates from home.

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