Wearable Devices Help Target Mood and Cognitive Interventions

Sport Watch
Woman checking her sport watch.
Investigators posit that wearable devices will help psychiatrists to target mood and cognitive interventions.

Wearable devices may be highly effective tools for assessing mood and cognitive function in major depressive disorder (MDD), according to study results published in JMIR Mental Health.

MDD is characterized by a wide range of cognitive symptoms that can be targeted for intervention. Mobile digital technologies allow clinicians and patients to monitor cognitive symptoms of MDD in nonclinical settings. The objective of this study was to examine the feasibility and viability of using an app presented on an Apple watch to enable daily assessments of cognitive symptoms and mood for 6 weeks in patients with MDD.

For this study, 30 patients aged 19 and 63 who were diagnosed with MDD, had mild-to-moderate depression, and were being treated with antidepressant monotherapy were recruited. Each patient was supplied with an Apple Watch series 2 to pair with a personal iPhone. Patients were instructed to complete at least 3 cognitive assessments per day and at least 1 mood assessment per day over the course of the 6-week study. Multiple prompts were provided to give patients the freedom to complete assessments at the more convenient time. Patients also completed full-length cognitive testing and validated questionnaires in weeks 1, 3, and 6. Exploratory analyses were conducted on results from the assessments to examine mood and cognitive symptoms in all patients.

Results revealed that patients engaged with the cognitive and mood assessment prompts, as instructed, exhibited high adherence with rates of 96% and 95%, respectively. Adherence was continuous. Overall, mood symptoms improved over the assessment period (P =.01), though changes in mood did not show a clear association with changes in cognitive symptoms. Correlation coefficients for full-length assessment measuring depression symptoms and total mood score was 0.69 (95% CI, 0.44-0.84), and assessment measuring cognitive problems and mood score was 0.65 (95% CI, 0.37-0.82).

The study had some limitations. Notably, results may not be generalizable to all levels of severity of MDD or to individuals with visual impairments who could experience difficulty using the small touch screen. In addition, the wearable equipment was likely not of medical grade and reliable measurements of heart rate were not obtained.

The study researchers concluded that wearable devices are both feasible and valid for collection of high-frequency assessment of cognitive function and mood over extended periods of time in patients with MDD.

Disclosure: This clinical trial was supported by Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.


Cormack F, McCue M, Taptiklis N, et al. Wearable technology for high-frequency cognitive and mood assessment in major depressive disorder: longitudinal observational study [published online November 18, 2019]. JMIR Ment Health. doi: 10.2196/12814

This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor