Smartphone tapping speed may provide clues to MS severity

The humble smartphone could be a useful tool for monitoring the severity and progression of multiple sclerosis (MS) according to a new study.

Slower typing or tapping speeds were associated with worse measures of MS. Patients whose tapping speed was slower had poorer dexterity, worse disability and walking ability, as well as poorer cognitive function.

This research was presented at the 38th Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS).

The study featured 50 MS patients, and their tapping speed was passively monitored by researchers over the course of a week using an app designed for this purpose.

The speeds were then compared with clinical MS measures, such as hand dexterity measured with the 9-hole peg test, disability level measured with the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS), mobility and leg function tested with the timed 25-foot walk test, and cognitive performance measured by the processing speed test.

Overall, tapping speeds were correlated with these clinical measurements, with a slower tap speed generally linked to increased disability, worse limb function, and poorer cognitive function.

Tapping speeds were also linked to a longer disease duration, although the correlation wasn’t as strong.

People with secondary progressive MS has slower speeds than those with RRMS, the team also noticed.