History at a glance
- Researchers at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering have succeeded in creating a “new inference machine” that can monitor brain activity through electrical impulses in the skin.
- Lead researcher Rose Fagich, associate professor of biomedical engineering, has been developing the technology for the past seven years.
- The new technology was tested on 26 healthy people and proved to decipher and interpret brain signals in seconds.
Researchers at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering are one step closer to creating a wearable device that can track mental health.
Over the past seven years, associate professor of biomedical engineering Rose Faghih has developed technology that measures certain brain activity directly related to a person’s emotional state—specifically, electrodermal activity (EDA)—through the skin.
EDA is an electrical phenomenon of the skin that changes based on certain emotional stressors. For example, stress caused by pain, exhaustion, or being rushed to work can alter a person’s EDA.
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Faghih and her former doctoral student Rafiul Amin succeeded for the first time in developing a new inference engine that can monitor brain activity through the skin in real time with accuracy and high scalability, according to an NYU statement.
Details of the crucial task were recently published in the journal Computational Biology.
Faghih hopes to eventually create a device that can monitor the user’s mental state and “offer nudges” to help them return to a more neutral state of mind when under stress.
One example of how the yet-to-be-completed device, called MINDWATCH, could do this is by playing relaxing music when the user is experiencing a moment of severe work-related stress, according to the statement.
“Deriving autonomic nervous system activation from wearable devices in real-time opens up new possibilities for monitoring and improving mental health and cognitive engagement,” Faghih said.
The new device was tested on 26 healthy people and showed it could reliably decipher brain signals and translate them into insights in seconds.
The device could have other health benefits besides correcting a person’s mental state, according to Faghih.
The technology can be used to diagnose a complication of diabetes called neuropathy, or severe nerve damage that causes numbness, pain or weakness.
Small nerves transmit brain stimulation to parts of the body, including those associated with the skin conductance response.
EDA can be measured and monitored regularly on neuropathy-prone areas of skin such as the hands or lower legs to see if the area has disease.
If the wearer has neuropathy, these tiny nerves won’t be able to transmit anything – and thus won’t activate the brain. Observing these changes in brain activity could help doctors determine how the condition has progressed and how to better treat it.
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Posted on August 15, 2022