As a nod to Mental Health Awareness Week, we have decided to take a closer look at what is going on in the merger of medicine with technology. So far there has been a lot of great innovation taking place with breathe tracking wearables and brain activity wearables. More recently the idea of a wrist-worn wearable device with the ability to peer into our brain has come to our attention. Decoding the brain, the device is capable of detecting mental-stress-related diseases. This means that in the near future such a device change how we can go about diagnosing and treating stress related mental illness.
Wearables That Act as a Window Into The Brains State of Emotional Arousal
Looking to transform how mental-stress-related diseases are diagnosed and treated, engineer Rose T. Faghih proposes to measure cognitive brain states related to stress by taking stock of skin, examining skin conductance data for arousal and cortisol data for fatigue. Unlike other wearable technology on the market that tracks heart rate as an indicator of stress, Faghih believes that stressful scenarios that trigger your skin to develop the tiniest sheen of perspiration can provide a window into the brain’s state of emotional arousal.
“I’m building a navigation system for the brain. We can collect data from smartwatches seamlessly to understand activity in the brain with wearable machine-interface.”
Awarded $175,000 from the National Science Foundation, University of Houston electrical engineer, Faghih is developing the signal processing algorithms, or infrastructure, for a wearable device that would recognise the skin’s reaction and interpret it. “For example, if the data indicates they need to relax, maybe their phone could begin to play relaxing music, or the phone automatically calls a loved one for support,” said Faghih.
Currently, to track brain function, patients undergo electroencephalogram (EEG) testing, in which electrodes are attached to the scalp or a cap to measure brain activity. Faghih explained that the convenience of measuring the brain on a smartwatch improves the monitoring protocol immeasurably. “Instead of getting information directly from the brain we can use skin conductance data collected by a smartwatch,” she said.
She continues, “I’m building a navigation system for the brain. We can collect data from smartwatches seamlessly to understand activity in the brain with wearable machine-interface (WMI) architectures related to mental stress and their potential applications for tracking fatigue and arousal states.” Adding that technology would not necessarily have to indicate medication as a solution but could add more straightforward measures, like relaxation techniques, into the mix.