Study will gauge impact of smartphone on memory and focus

Scientists are to use an app to conduct the first crowdsourcing study on the impact of smartphone use on working memory, mental focus and attention.

The app created by Datacubed Health will also allow scientists from the University of Southern Denmark to study the effects of mindfulness techniques and music listening patterns on concentration, stress, and working memory.

Datacubed Health is a Brooklyn-based tech company specialising in data capture using devices such as smartphone apps, wearables, and environmental sensors.

The two studies, focusing on smartphone use and mindfulness respectively, begin next month and will use the app for electronic consent and data collection.

The app employs an interface that will take participants on journeys through several interactive maps and virtual worlds as they ‘journey’ through the research study.

There has been much popular discussion about smartphone use on cognition in recent years, but Ulrich Kirk, associate professor at the Institute of Psychology at the University of Southern Denmark said few objective studies have attempted to measure their effects in large numbers of participants.

The smartphone study aims to include more than a thousand participants. The mindfulness study will be conducted in dozens of Danish workplaces to reach thousands of workers.

Kirk said: “These studies will allow us to bring cognitive neuroscience to people’s everyday lives.

“With Datacubed’s involvement in creating an app for iPhone and Android devices, thousands of people will be able to participate using their own phones.”

Paul Glimcher, CEO of Datacubed Health, said: “We are excited to partner with the University of Southern Denmark on this unique and innovative research project.

“We have found that by adapting techniques and technologies used by the video game industry, we can create research tools that are compelling to participants and that often achieve adherence rates above 95% in clinical trials.

“In these studies, our apps are being used to reach large numbers of people and gather valid neuroscientific data for academic publications and policy research.”

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