News and updates
BiAffect PI Dr. Alex Leow is quoted in a U.S. News & World Report story about the distinct changes that unfold in new fathers' brains about the birth of their child.
Read the full story by HealthDay reporter Cara Murez here
Dr. Alex Leow, a professor of psychiatry and bioengineering at the University of Illinois Chicago, said science is now appreciating that people have many differences and that it's important to study different groups.
There is more awareness of sex differences in the brains of men and women, in both structure and function, Leow said.
Leow noted that the default mode network is a concept that has been popular among brain scientists for about 10 to 15 years. The idea is that the brain is active even if it's just thinking through the day's tasks.
"A lot of the things the brain's thinking about when we are not doing a task is really contemplating ourselves. It turns out that's exactly a fundamental function of this default mode network," Leow said.
Where a person is in terms of their life span can also make a difference. A person's focus may be different in their 20s than when they have kids, when their children are in their teen years or when they are approaching retirement, Leow said.
"And I can see that when parents are now expecting a newborn baby, that reflection is totally different. It's a very different kind of reflection," Leow said. "And I think in that sense, it makes a lot of sense for the primary part of the brain to be affected being the default mode network."
Other studies have followed mothers for a longer period of time to see if changes after pregnancy reverted back to baseline or were permanent. That would be an interesting follow-up question to pursue after this study, Leow said.
University of Georgia researcher Brian Bauer and his former mentor, BiAffect PI Dr. Alex Leow, have developed a platform called the Continued Service Network that will enable vets to help each other, that was recently awarded $250,000 by Mission Daybreak, a part of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ 10-year strategy to end veteran suicide through a comprehensive, public health approach.
Read the full story by UGA reporter Katie Cowart here
To solve existential brain challenges spanning neurology, mental health, education, workforce development, and neuroscience—we need a fresh approach to technologies and investing. We need a new investment opportunity: Brain Capital.
BiAffect is listed as an innovative patient reported #outcomes tool in this commentary article in the periodical Psychiatric Times.
Published in the journal Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, this paper describes the reliable and accurate power-law estimation approach developed by its authors for analyzing the limited and noisy data generated from virtual keyboard typing dynamics.
Ubiquitous use of smartphones has significantly shaped interpersonal communications in modern life, in particular interactions via text messaging. To study the underlying dynamics of these smartphone-based human communications, we used a unique smartphone typing dataset that was passively and unobtrusively collected in-the-wild from 296 users via a custom-made iPhone keyboard. To reliably and accurately characterize the underlying distribution of the inter-event time between two consecutive keypresses, we (i) developed a statistical approach that integrates existing methods for estimating power-law distribution, and (ii) showed that power-law is a plausible candidate to represent human typing dynamics. We designed synthetic-data simulations in multiple scenarios where the synthetic data may or may not imitate human typing characteristics. Using numerical simulations, we showed that our approach, in all scenarios, improves the accuracy and stability of power-law estimates upon the common methods. We further demonstrated that when the synthetic data follow human typing characteristics, common methods lead to significant misestimations of power-law exponent as they fail to take into account the key characteristics of the observed data. More broadly, our approach applies beyond the power-law estimation for human typing dynamics data.
The Guardian on BiAffect and the advent of digital phenotyping—‘The dawn of tappigraphy: does your smartphone know how you feel before you do?’
Read the full story by The Guardian reporter Zoë Corbyn here
The BiAffect study, a research effort focused on keystroke behaviour to predict bipolar episodes run by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has an open science component that allows the public to download an app and take part so that differences between healthy adults and those with bipolar disorder can be better understood. It has about 2,000 participants.
Follow this link to read the rest of this article
A review on the feasibility and validity of building the digital behaviorome via sensor data for neuropsychiatric research published in the journal Current Opinion in Systems Biology.
This review article summarizes how emerging connected technologies (e.g., smartphones and wearables) may provide novel avenues to understand an individual's behavior through the lens of systems biology. First, we surveyed recent research efforts that leveraged the multimodal high temporal resolution data derived from connected devices to build digital phenotypes and/or discover digital biomarkers of the behaviorome. We write this review with a particular emphasis on the detection, diagnosis, and symptom monitoring of neuropsychiatric disorders, as these pathologies may manifest primarily as disruptions to the behaviorome. We then discussed new opportunities and challenges these state-of-art research efforts bring as they intersect with other areas of natural and social sciences. Ultimately, we suggest how incorporating systems biology and connected technologies data can lead to a better understanding of complex neuropsychiatric disorders.
Read the full story by science writer Teresa Carey in Freethink
For starters, I forgot the alphabet.
It was one of those weeks where I missed every deadline already — unable to focus on work or anything else. I was instructed to quickly touch alternating letters and numbers in order: 1A, 2B, 3C, 4D, 5E, 6... What is the next letter? The stopwatch ticked on, and I imagined my multitasking score dropping. (Oh well, multitasking isn't a thing anyway, right?)
I'm a volunteer for a study that uses the BiAffect app to screen my virtual mental health. Created by a University of Illinois team, BiAffect is a phone app that monitors mood and how it impacts cognition. The study is built around the theory that personal devices, like fitness trackers, phones or smartwatches, act as a digital proxy for human behavior.
This emerging scientific field is called digital phenotyping...
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Effects of mood and aging on keystroke dynamics metadata and their diurnal patterns in a large open-science sample: a BiAffect iOS study
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, this paper seeks to capture the effects of mood, demographics, and time-of- day on keyboard metadata.
Ubiquitous technologies can be leveraged to construct ecologically relevant metrics that complement traditional psychological assessments. This study aims to determine the feasibility of smartphone-derived real-world keyboard metadata to serve as digital biomarkers of mood.
Materials and Methods
BiAffect, a real-world observation study based on a freely available iPhone app, allowed the unobtrusive collection of typing metadata through a custom virtual keyboard that replaces the default keyboard. User demographics and self-reports for depression severity (Patient Health Questionnaire-8) were also collected. Using >14 million keypresses from 250 users who reported demographic information and a subset of 147 users who additionally completed at least 1 Patient Health Questionnaire, we employed hierarchical growth curve mixed-effects models to capture the effects of mood, demographics, and time of day on keyboard metadata.
We analyzed 86 541 typing sessions associated with a total of 543 Patient Health Questionnaires. Results showed that more severe depression relates to more variable typing speed (P < .001), shorter session duration (P < .001), and lower accuracy (P < .05). Additionally, typing speed and variability exhibit a diurnal pattern, being fastest and least variable at midday. Older users exhibit slower and more variable typing, as well as more pronounced slowing in the evening. The effects of aging and time of day did not impact the relationship of mood to typing variables and were recapitulated in the 250-user group.
Keystroke dynamics, unobtrusively collected in the real world, are significantly associated with mood despite diurnal patterns and effects of age, and thus could serve as a foundation for constructing digital biomarkers.
The BiAffect team explores ethical, legal and regulatory issues inherent in the development and deployment of real-time monitoring systems for the diagnosis and management of psychiatric disorders in this article published in Focus: The Journal of Lifelong Learning in Psychiatry.
Current management of psychiatric disorders relies heavily on retrospective, subjective reports provided by patients and their families. Consequently, psychiatric services are often provisioned inefficiently and with suboptimal outcomes. Recent advances in computing and sensor technologies have enabled the development of real-time monitoring systems for the diagnosis and management of psychiatric disorders. The state of these technologies is rapidly evolving, with passive monitoring and predictive modeling as two areas that have great potential to affect psychiatric care. Although outpatient psychiatry probably stands to benefit the most from the use of real-time monitoring technologies, there are also several ways in which inpatient psychiatry may also benefit. As the capabilities of these technologies increase and their use becomes more common, many ethical and legal issues will need to be considered. The role of governmental regulatory bodies and nongovernmental organizations in providing oversight of the implementation of these technologies is an active area of discussion.