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Schizophr Res Cogn. 2019 Apr 18;17:100144. doi: 10.1016/j.scog.2019.100144. eCollection 2019 Sep.

Assessing the potential of longitudinal smartphone based cognitive assessment in schizophrenia: A naturalistic pilot study.

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Department of Biostatistics, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, United States.
Division of Digital Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States.



Although cognition is a core symptom of schizophrenia and associated with functional impairment, the degree of training for and time associated with its assessment makes it difficult to routinely monitor in clinic care.Smartphone based cognitive assessments could serve as a tool to measure cognition in real time as well as being easily scalable for broad use.Combined with other data gathered from smartphone sensors such as steps, sleep, and self-reported symptoms - capturing 'cognition in context' could provide a powerful new tool for assessing the functional burden of disease in schizophrenia.


18 participants with schizophrenia and 17 healthy controls completed novel cognitive assessments on their personal smartphones over the course of 12 weeks while also capturing self-reported surveys and step count. No payment or incentives were offered for engaging with the smartphone app. Differing levels of difficulty in cognitive tasks were tested and the results were modeled using a modified Cox proportional hazard model.


On the smartphone cognitive assessments that involved on simple patterns, both controls and those with schizophrenia achieved similar scores. On the more complex assessment that added task switching in addition to pattern recognition, those with schizophrenia achieved scores lower than controls. Collecting other forms of data such as surveys and steps was also feasible using the same smartphone platform.


It is feasible for those with schizophrenia to use their own smartphones to complete cognitive assessments and other measures related to their mental health. While we did not investigate the correlations between these cognitive assessments and other smartphone captured metrics like step count or self-reported symptoms, the potential to longitudinally assess cognition in the context of patients' environments outside of the clinic presents unique opportunities for characterizing cognitive burden in schizophrenia.

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