Brooding in your apartment on Saturday afternoon? A new smart phone intuits when you're depressed and will nudge you to call or go out with friends.
It's the future of therapy at a new Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine center where scientists are inventing web-based, mobile and virtual technologies to treat depression and other mood disorders. The phone and similar projects bypass traditional weekly therapy sessions for novel approaches that provide immediate support and access to a much larger population.
Also in the works at the National Institutes of Health-funded center: a virtual human therapist who will work with teens to prevent depression; a medicine bottle that reminds you to take antidepressant medication and tells your doctor if the dosage needs adjusting; a web-based social network to help cancer survivors relieve sadness and stress.
"We're inventing new ways technology can help people with mental health problems," said psychologist David Mohr, director of the new Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies and a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern's Feinberg School. "The potential to reduce or even prevent depression is enormous."
"These new approaches could offer fundamentally new treatment options to people who are unable to access traditional services or who are uncomfortable with standard psychotherapy," Mohr added. "They also can be offered at significantly lower costs, which makes them more viable in an era of limited resources."
The goal is for the center to become a national resource, offering a library of intervention technologies that will be available to other researchers.
Among the center's projects:
A REALLY SMART PHONE READS YOUR MOOD
A smart phone spots symptoms of depression by harnessing all the sensor data within the phone to interpret a person's location, activity level (via an accelerometer), social context and mood.
Are you making phone calls and getting e-mails, or are you home alone ruminating for hours? If the phone – which learns your usual patterns -- senses you are isolated, it will send you a suggestion to call or see friends. The technology, which still is being tweaked, is called Mobilyze! and has been tested in a small pilot study. It helped reduce symptoms of depression.
The new phone offers a powerful new level of support for people who have depression and intervenes to help them change their behavior in real time.
"By prompting people to increase behaviors that are pleasurable or rewarding, we believe that Mobilyze! will improve mood," Mohr said. "It creates a positive feedback loop. Someone is encouraged to see friends, then enjoys himself and wants to do it again. Ruminating alone at home has the opposite effect and causes a downward spiral."
YOU CAN'T FOOL THIS MEDICINE BOTTLE
A medicine bottle now being developed will track if you forgot your daily dose of antidepressant medication and remind you to take it. The savvy bottle addresses the common problem of patients who quickly stop taking antidepressant medications prescribed by their primary care doctors.
"People whose depression is being treated by primary care doctors often don't do very well, partly because patients don't take their medications and partly because the doctors don't follow up as frequently as they should to optimize the medication and dosage when necessary," Mohr said. "This pill dispenser addresses both issues."
The bottle is part of a MedLink system, which will include a mobile app that monitors the patient's depressive symptoms and any medication side effects and will provide tailored advice to manage problems. The information is then sent to the physician or health care provider with a recommendation, such as a change in the dose or drug, if necessary. The MedLink system also will be used to improve medication adherence in patients with schizophrenia and HIV.
VIRTUAL HUMAN COACHES TEENS IN SOCIAL SKILLS
A virtual programmable human will role play with adolescents and adults to teach social and assertiveness skills to prevent and treat depression. A prototype is being developed with researchers from the University of Southern California.
"We think this will be especially helpful for kids, who often are reluctant to see a therapist," Mohr said. The program will allow them to practice these behaviors in the safety of virtual space.
Existing online interventions for teens "look like homework," Mohr noted. The virtual human feels like a game, making it more likely to engage them.
The Northwestern lab will be evaluating a number of different types of social interactions that are hard for teens and adults.
"Having trouble with those situations makes people more vulnerable to depression," Mohr said. "When people have the confidence and skills to better manage difficult interpersonal interactions, they are less likely to become depressed." Previous research also has shown that intervening early in adolescents who have difficulty with social skills can help prevent the first onset of depression.
HELPING CANCER SURIVORS COPE WITH STRESS
Web-based content to help cancer survivors manage stress and depression is more effective when a human coach checks in on their progress via a phone call or e-mail.
"People are more likely to stick with an online program if they know that someone they like or respect can see what they're doing," Mohr said. His group is creating a closed social network and collaborative learning environment where peers can serve that function for each other.
"People can get feedback from the group, share goals and check in with members if someone has stayed offline for too long," Mohr said.
Marla Paul | EurekAlert!
Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease
22.08.2017 | Duke University
Once invincible superbug squashed by 'superteam' of antibiotics
22.08.2017 | University at Buffalo
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine
22.08.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.08.2017 | Life Sciences