With mobile phones now practically the third arm of modern (wo)man, researchers have begun to harness the processing power of these increasingly ubiquitous devices for data collection. Because people carry their phones everywhere, they can capture behavioral data on a daily basis. Researchers led by Andrew Trister and Stephen Friend at Sage Bionetworks, a nonprofit research organization in Seattle, developed a mobile phone app called mPower that lets Parkinson’s patients record their movement and memory over time. Such data chronicles the day-to-day variability in symptoms and may help researchers spot trends more quickly, Trister and Friend report in the March 3 Scientific Data. They intend to analyze mPower data to understand medication effects on Parkinson’s symptoms.
“This seems to me an avenue of research well worth pursuing,” John Harrison at Metis Cognition, Wiltshire, U.K., wrote to Alzforum (see full comment below). “This approach may yield interesting information about patient behavior, as well as their responses to treatment.” For example, with advancing disease, Alzheimer’s patients tend to stay at home more, and any device with a GPS could track this behavioral change, Harrison noted.