Andrew Mernin
Health Tech World
January 11, 2022

A new study is the first to show that a remote cognitive assessment could help with tracking patients with cardiovascular risk. The assessments evaluated are from Posit Science, which makes the BrainHQ brain exercise app.

Prior studies have established that people with cardiovascular risk factors are at increased risk for cognitive decline and dementia as they age. However, such studies have relied on the gold standard of in-person neuropsychological testing, which, while very beneficial, can be time-consuming, expensive, and challenging to arrange during a pandemic.

The Health eBrain Study enrolled and assessed 239 older adults in a proof-of-concept trial to determine if novel, remotely-administered, cognitive assessments could detect the known association between cognitive performance and cardiovascular risk factors.

Remote testing could provide a means for identifying people who are suffering from cognitive issues associated with their cardiovascular risk factors, and could provide a tool for monitoring their brain health in an ongoing way.

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco, The Neurology Center of Southern California, and Posit Science found that participants with the cardiovascular risk factors atrial fibrillation and hypertension had significantly worse performance on memory assessments used in the study.

The researchers noted the results suggest such “assessments can be used to detect the association between cardiovascular risk factors and cognition function,” and that the “ability to remotely track cognitive health in individuals with modifiable cardiovascular risk factors could represent a unique opportunity to target high-risk individuals for early education, frequent monitoring, and interventions with the hope of preventing accelerated cognitive decline with aging.”

Prior studies of people with chronic heart failure have found using BrainHQ exercises (from which these assessments were derived) can improve health outcomes, mobility, and patient self-care management, and can reduce healthcare costs.

 “This study represents another step toward a world in which patients can both monitor and improve brain health, with an app you can carry in your pocket,” said Dr. Henry Mahncke, Posit Science CEO.

“It also raises the possibility that health systems and providers could identify patients with cardiovascular risk factors based on their remotely-administered brain health assessments, as well as monitor the cognitive ability of patients with such risk factors.”

BrainHQ exercises have been shown effective in hundreds of studies across varied populations, with benefits that include gains on standard measures of cognition (attention, speed, memory, decision-making), and quality of life (mood, self-rated health, health-related quality of life), as well as in real-world activities (gait/balance, driving, listening, work).