Penn State Researchers Hope to Beat Addiction With Wearables

Penn State Wearable Tech

New PSU wearable system could help break the cycle of addiction

Researchers at Penn State are developing a wearable platform called WearIT designed to help people struggling with addiction to stay on the path to recovery.

As reported by Centre Daily Times, Penn State researchers are working on a system that aims to help people in addiction recovery not just get by, but thrive.

The system, WearIT, is a scientific framework that will utilize a commercial wearable device, such as a Fitbit, and a smartphone app to track the wearer’s feelings and physiological state.

It was created by Timothy Brick and Zita Oravecz, assistant professors of human development and family studies and co-principal investigators; and James Mundie, a mobile app developer at Penn State.

So how does it work?

The wearable device is always on and collecting data, such as heart rate, and that’s being monitored on the app, Mundie said. When the device detects a signal — in this case an “indicator of cravings” — the app can provide intervention at that moment.

Something that’s common with opiate addiction is that someone will develop cravings on his or her commute home, Brick said, and there’s a lot going on during the commute — tiredness from a long day at work, anger from being stuck in traffic, etc. But there are other minor things that can be triggers that someone might not realize, like driving past a sign for a drugstore.

“By collecting data we can shift that conversation from, ‘Did you have any low points last week?’ to ‘Tell me about this specific time,’ ” Mundie said.

Having the data also allows for an individual and counselor to work together toward a common goal and talk about what’s happening without being confrontational, Brick said.

“Addicts are habitual liars. So it’s really hard to lie when you have the data to look at. And they’re not necessarily lying for any reason other than it’s just a habit,” Mundie said.

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To read more about how researchers at Penn State are developing a platform to help fight addiction, please visit Centre Daily Times.

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