Verily's Study Watch to feature in major PTSD trial


Google's life sciences arm Verily will be joining a major trial studying the causes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The 19-site trial called the Aurora Study will see Verily work alongside the University of North Carolina and Mindstrong Health - a startup which uses smartphone technology to treat mental health issues.

The study will be funded by a $21 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and looks to enrol 5,000 participants.

The Aurora Study represents one of the first trials to feature Verily's Study Watch - a wrist-worn device that can gather multiple signals, including heart rate, electrodermal activity, and inertial movements.

The watch will be used alongside Mindstrong's smartphone-based assessment technology which can measure cognitive health aspects like processing speed, attention and memory based on a user's interaction with their smartphone.

Combined with in-person visits, genomic measurements, neurocognitive tests, patients surveys, and medical record reviews, the idea behind the trial is to create a deeper understanding of the disorder.

"Typically in research, diseases or conditions are assessed at a single moment in time — yet a clearer picture of health conditions may be better obtained by the evaluation of numerous variables over time," writes Menachem Fromer, mental health data dead at Verily, and Sam McLean of the University of North Carolina in a blog post. "Using continuous physiologic data obtained from the Study Watch, AURORA study investigators will determine whether it is possible to identify individuals at-risk for persistent post-traumatic sequelae, as well as to diagnose and predict symptom progression."

"We hope that patterns will emerge among these data that better predict and diagnose post-traumatic conditions such as PTS, post-concussive syndrome, and depression, in order to advance the treatments available to people who experience trauma."

The Aurora Study will be a testing ground for the Study Watch before it is used in Verily's Baseline Study - the firm's ambitious attempt to comprehensively map human health using the wearable.

It will also be the first major trial for Mindstrong since poaching top neuroscientist Dr Thomas Insel from Verily in May.

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Marco Ricci

8 August, 2017