New Algorithm Can Track Mental Health Through Skin – The Hill
- Researchers at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering were able to create a “new inference engine” that could monitor brain activity via electrical impulses in the skin.
- Principal Investigator Rose Faghih, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, has been developing this technology for the past seven years.
- The new technology was tested on 26 healthy people and proved to be able to decode and interpret brain signals in seconds.
Researchers at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering are one step closer to developing a wearable device that can track mental health.
For the past seven years, Rose Faghih, an associate professor of biomedical engineering, has developed techniques to measure specific brain activity directly related to a person’s emotional state, specifically electrodermal activity (EDA), through the skin.
EDA is an electrical phenomenon in the skin that changes based on certain emotional stressors. For example, pain, fatigue, or stress caused by being in a hurry at work can change a person’s EDA.
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According to a statement from NYU, Faghih and her former PhD student Rafiul Amin were the first to develop a new inference engine capable of monitoring brain activity through the skin in real-time, accurately and with high scalability.
Details of the important task were recently published in the journal Computational Biology.
Faghih ultimately hopes to create a device that can monitor the wearer’s mental state and “provide a nudge” to help return to a more neutral state of mind when stressed.
One example of how the yet-to-be-finished device, called the MINDWATCH, does this, according to the statement, is by playing relaxing music when the wearer is experiencing severe work-related stress.
“Real-time inference of autonomic nervous system activation from wearable devices opens up new opportunities to monitor and improve mental health and cognitive engagement,” said Faghih.
The new device was tested on 26 healthy people and shown to be able to reliably decode brain signals and turn them into insights in a matter of seconds.
Faghih said the device could have other health benefits besides regulating a person’s mental state.
The technology could help diagnose a complication of diabetes called neuropathy, or severe nerve damage that causes numbness, pain and weakness.
Tiny nerves transmit brain stimuli to parts of the body, including those associated with skin conductance responses.
EDA can be measured and monitored regularly on nerve-prone skin areas such as the hands and soles of the feet to see if there is a condition in that area.
If the wearer has a neuropathy, those tiny nerves cannot transmit anything and the brain is not activated. and how to better treat it.
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Published August 15, 2022