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SAN FRANCISCO — Dr. Thomas Insel is one of the most high-profile scientists who has departed Verily Life Sciences, the Google spinoff that has been plagued by turnover at the top and questions about its approach to science.

Insel, a neuroscientist and longtime head of the National Institute of Mental Health, left for a venture that he says could use people’s behavior on smartphones — such as the speed and cadence of their typing and scrolling — to improve diagnosis and treatment of mental health. The idea, he said in an interview, is to apply the kind of precision approach used for cancer or heart disease to “predict and preempt” serious mental illness.


People touch their phones 4,000 times a day, said Insel, who co-founded Mindstrong Health in May, the month he left Verily. “Every one of those touches is a data point for us … and it looks like it’s giving us really special insights into cognition and behavior.”

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