iHeal: A mobile device for preventing and treating drug use

February 8, 2012, Springer

Imagine a device combining sensors to measure physiological changes. Then imagine a smartphone with software applications designed to respond to your bodily changes in an attempt to change your behavior. That is the vision behind "iHeal," currently being developed by Edward Boyer from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the US, and his colleagues. The multimedia device is an innovative combination of 'enabling technologies' which can detect developing drug cravings and intervene as the cravings develop to prevent drug use. Boyer and team's preliminary data and key findings to date are published online in Springer's Journal of Medical Toxicology.

So called 'enabling technologies' - artificial intelligence, continuous physiological monitoring, , and smartphone computation - exist to make more effective outside the clinic or office environments. In everyday, , they can detect changes in an individual's biological and affective states, which could well be trigger points for risky , such as substance use.

iHeal is different from existing mobile health applications, because it incorporates biosensors. Individuals with a history of substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder wear a sensor band around their wrist that measures the electrical activity of the skin, body motion, skin temperature and heart rate - all indicators of arousal or stress. The band wirelessly transmits information to a smartphone, where software applications monitor and process the user's .

When the software detects an increased stress or arousal level, it asks the user to annotate events by inputting information about their perceived level of stress, drug cravings, and current activities. iHeal's ultimate goal is to identify, in real-time, drug cravings and deliver personalized, multimedia drug precisely at the moment of greatest need.

Boyer and team's paper examines iHeal's development process to date i.e. system architecture, as well as preliminary feedback from potential users to identify potential limitations and key attributes from a user-perspective. Their analyses suggest a number of technical issues related to data security, as well as the need for a more robust and less stigmatizing version before the device could be worn in public. This could be a sensor band that has the appearance and functionality of a wrist-watch, or a sensor that can be worn on the ankle.

The authors conclude: "Our findings demonstrate that conducting clinical trials using enabling technologies in natural environments will require a deeper understanding of user preferences. Study designers should rely on recipients rather than 'experts' to create intervention content. A focus on preventing identification of research participants to avoid subsequent stigmatization is also key."

Explore further: Addicts' cravings have different roots in men and women

More information: Boyer EW et al (2012). Preliminary efforts directed toward the detection of craving of illicit substances: the iHeal Project. Journal of Medical Toxicology. DOI:10.1007/s13181-011-0200-4

Related Stories

Addicts' cravings have different roots in men and women

January 30, 2012
When it comes to addiction, sex matters.

Returning vets' alcohol abuse addressed in virtual reality study

July 26, 2011
The spoils of war for returning veterans may include addictions, injury and the constant images of horrific events they witnessed. Now a University of Houston joint study funded by the Veterans Health Administration Rehabilitation ...

Researchers are making every bite count

August 2, 2011
Two Clemson University researchers seek to make diners mindful of mindless eating.

Recommended for you

Fabric imbued with optical fibers helps fight skin diseases

February 23, 2018
A team of researchers with Texinov Medical Textiles in France has announced that their PHOS-ISTOS system, called the Fluxmedicare, is on track to be made commercially available later this year. The system consists of a piece ...

Low-calorie diet enhances intestinal regeneration after injury

February 22, 2018
Dramatic calorie restriction, diets reduced by 40 percent of a normal calorie total, have long been known to extend health span, the duration of disease-free aging, in animal studies, and even to extend life span in most ...

Artificial intelligence quickly and accurately diagnoses eye diseases and pneumonia

February 22, 2018
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, researchers at Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health and University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in China, Germany and Texas, ...

Gut microbes protect against sepsis—mouse study

February 22, 2018
Sepsis occurs when the body's response to the spread of bacteria or toxins to the bloodstream damages tissues and organs. The fight against sepsis could get a helping hand from a surprising source: gut bacteria. Researchers ...

Breakthrough could lead to better drugs to tackle diabetes and obesity

February 22, 2018
Breakthrough research at Monash University has shown how different areas of major diabetes and obesity drug targets can be 'activated', guiding future drug development and better treatment of diseases.

Fertility breakthrough: New research could extend egg health with age

February 22, 2018
Women have been told for years that if they don't have children before their mid-30s, they may not be able to. But a new study from Princeton University's Coleen Murphy has identified a drug that extends egg viability in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.