Researchers at Newcastle University are using Affectiva Q Sensors to help examine childhood anxiety in support of refined clinical approaches to treating adolescent anxiety.
Affectiva is an MIT spin-off developing emotion measurement technology including the Q™ Sensor, a next generation biosensor that measures physiological signs of people’s emotional states such as excitement and stress.
In December 2011, Amanda Wild, a doctorate candidate in clinical psychology at Newcastle University, launched the first stage of a study using Q Sensors to measure emotional arousal in teens using their physiological reactions. These reactions include changes in electrodermal activity, skin temperature, and physical activity. Electrodermal activity, sometimes called galvanic skin response, is measured via skin conductance and registers the brain’s “fight or flight” response.
The study is examining the responses of adolescent students who have been identified with both high and low levels of intolerance of uncertainty. While at school, students wearing the Q Sensor complete a computerized decision-making task. As the task triggers an emotional response, Wild’s research team measures the students’ physiological arousal and compares it to the student’s self-reported levels of anxiety. The team wants to look at whether there are differences in response to the task based on the student’s underlying levels of intolerance of uncertainty.
“For the first time, we are able to measure adolescents’ electrodermal responses in the classroom where they are comfortable and can move freely, thanks to the Q Sensor’s small, wire free form factor,” said Amanda Wild.
The goal is to understand whether the intensity of physiological reaction to anxiety is directly correlated to the cognitive response. If the study uncovers that certain individuals have heightened psychological reactions, without the corresponding physiological changes, it may lead to the development of alternative approaches to understanding and treating anxiety.
“While basic EDA sensing technology has existed for many years, Affectiva has really expanded its applicability by making the Q Sensor as wearable as a wristwatch,” said Oliver Wilder-Smith, Q Sensor product manager at Affectiva. “Seeing researchers devise creative new ways to use the Q, such as Amanda Wild’s study with students in the classroom, is really exciting.”
Wild expects to have her doctoral thesis completed by September 2012, highlighting the key findings of this study. Thanks to the new technology developed by Affectiva, the Newcastle University team has the ability to further explore the relationship between the body’s physiological responses to emotional situations and the person’s ability to deal with that experience. This can help refine the clinical approach to treating adolescent anxiety – an important condition that affects up to a quarter of all children and teens and can be a factor in adults developing general anxiety disorder.
For more, visit Affectiva’s Newcastle University case study.