A magical wearable technology applied to smartwatches can lower people’s stress

Stress is a worldwide issue that can result in catastrophic health and financial complications. An experiment conducted by the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering is to monitor stress sweat or skin conductance response(SCR) and help lower it with a modified smartwatch. The experiment is led by the electrical and computer engineering lab of Rose Faghih, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Faghih’s research team has built a new closed-loop technology by placing two electrodes on smartwatch-type wearables to collect and study these physiological signals of stress. A reminder is sent through the smartwatch, once the signal for stress is detected. Thus, the loop is closed as the detected stress launches the subtle suggestion.

“This study is one of the very first steps toward the ultimate goal of monitoring brain responses using wearable devices and closing the loop to keep a person’s stress state within a pleasant range,” Faghih says.

How does the team make this happen? Electrodermal activity (i.e., the electrical conductivity of the skin) carries important information about the brain’s cognitive stress. With signal processing techniques, the team can track the hidden stress state and design an appropriate control algorithm for regulating the stress state and closing the loop.

After accomplishing the task of closed-loop cognitive stress regulation in a simulation study based on experimental data, UH doctoral student and lead study author Fekri Azgomi said, “to the best of our knowledge, this research is one of the very first to relate the cognitive stress state to the changes in SCR events and design the control mechanism to close the loop in a real-time simulation system.”

The proposed architecture is an initial step toward treating cognitive disorders using non-invasive brain state decoding.  

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