DOI: 10.1002/alz.080476 ISSN: 1552-5260

Building a normative sample for smartphone‐based measures of cognition and motor functioning: Study design and initial feasibility findings

Sreya Dhanam, Adam M. Staffaroni, Jack C Taylor, Mark E. Sanderson‐Cimino, Amy B. Wise, Annie L Clark, Hilary W. Heuer, Winnie Kwang, Joel H. Kramer, Brad F. Boeve, Howard J. Rosen, Michael S. W. Weiner, Rachel L Nosheny, Adam L. Boxer
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Health Policy
  • Epidemiology



Smartphone‐based cognitive and motor tests enable frequent remote assessments in observational research studies and clinical trials, limiting travel burden and increasing access to research for underrepresented groups. One such smartphone tool is the ALLFTD Mobile App, which was designed to capture the clinical features of neurodegenerative diseases via a battery of cognitive, speech, and motor tasks. In this study, we focus on recruiting a demographically diverse normative sample. We have partnered with the UCSF Brain Health Registry (BHR) to recruit 1,000 cognitively healthy participants across the lifespan. Here we describe the study design and initial feasibility results.


We designed an automated workflow in which participants never interact with the study team except for troubleshooting. BHR participants without reported cognitive impairment were contacted by email to participate in this study (n = 668). Interested participants downloaded the app onto their smartphone and completed in‐app electronic consent. They were asked to complete three ∼30‐minute sessions of cognitive, motor and speech measures over two weeks. Adherence was determined by evaluating the completion rate of app tasks. In a subset who completed a user experience questionnaire (n = 116), responses were quantified using descriptive statistics.


The current enrollment rate is 23.20% (155/668) of contacted participants. Average age is 62 (SD = 8.2, range = 25‐84). Average adherence is 76%. Participants reported a range of perceived task difficulty: 38% indicated tasks were “very easy” or “somewhat easy”, 26% indicated they were “neutral,” 36% found the tasks “somewhat difficult,” and none reported them to be “very difficult.” The time commitment was reported to be acceptable by 97% of participants, and 20% were willing to complete additional tasks. Over half (59%) of participants indicated that they preferred using a smartphone to complete cognitive assessments over traditional pen‐and‐paper measures.


Our preliminary results demonstrate the feasibility and acceptability of recruiting participants, including older adults, through a registry and conducting remote smartphone testing via a fully automated workflow that is highly scalable. Future analysis will study the effects of demographic factors on feasibility and investigate the reliability and validity of the app measures in this sample.

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