Smartphones can predict brain function associated with anxiety and depression

Information on social activity, screen time and location from smartphones can predict connectivity between regions of the brain that are responsible for emotion, according to a study from Dartmouth College.

In the research, data from phone usage was analyzed alongside results from fMRI scans to confirm that passively collected information can mirror activity in the brain linked to traits such as anxiety. Predictions based solely on the phone data matched the brain scans with 80 percent accuracy.

The study, presented at ACM UbiComp, an annual conference on pervasive and ubiquitous computing, represents the first time researchers have been able to predict connectivity between specific brain regions solely based on passive data from smartphones.

“Simple information about how someone is using their smartphone can provide a peek into the complex functioning of the human brain,” said Mikio Obuchi, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science at Dartmouth and lead author of the study. “Although this research is just beginning, combining data from smartphones—rather than fMRI alone—will hopefully accelerate research to understand better how the human brain works.”

According to the research, how often and how long an individual uses their phone provides information about the functioning between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala—two key centers of the brain related to emotional state.

The ventromedial prefrontal cortex is responsible for self-control, decision making, and risk evaluation. The amygdala triggers the fight or flight response and helps individuals determine the emotions of others.

In addition to data on social activity, screen time and location, information on exercise and sleep patterns was also collected for the study.

The research found that more screen time, regular exercise, earlier bedtimes, higher social interaction and certain location patterns passively inferred from phone data matched a state of higher functional connectivity between the brain regions. This increased activity indicates a more positive emotional state.

“We are not suggesting that phones should replace technology like fMRI, but they can help individuals and health providers learn more about behavior patterns from everyday observations,” said Jeremy Huckins, a lecturer on psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth and a co-author of the study.

The research result aligns with clinical evidence showing that stronger connectivity between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala to be associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression. Weaker functional connectivity, on the other hand, represents a more negative emotional state.

Anonymous fMRI data from volunteer participants were placed into two categories divided by low and high brain connectivity levels. By matching phone data against the fMRI results the researchers were able to predict which research subjects had higher or lower connectivity between brain regions with 80 percent accuracy.

According to the research team, the use of passive information from a smartphone can help eliminate the subjectivity that often complicates other information-gathering techniques on emotional well-being such as personal interviews and self-reporting on questionnaires.

The phone information allowed researchers to predict the emotional state of individuals at any given time without intrusive data collection. The data also support predictions of the long-term emotional traits in individuals.

“Hopefully, this study shows how mobile sensing can provide deep longitudinal human behavioral data to complement brain scans,” said Andrew Campbell, the Albert Bradley 1915 Third Century Professor of computer science at Dartmouth and the senior researcher on the study. “This could offer new insights into the emotional well-being of subjects that would just not be possible without continuous sensing.”

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Quarantine fatigue: Everything you need to know about it

Do you feel tired of the quietness around, and also experience unrest, depression, anxiety, loneliness, or even irritability?

Have you been feeling exhausted despite being at home? Do you feel tired of the quietness around, and also experience unrest, depression, anxiety, loneliness, or even irritability? If yes, you could now be having ‘quarantine fatigue’, said Dr Ravi Gaur, chief operating officer, lab director, Oncquest Labs Ltd.

Quarantine fatigue is caused because of isolation, lack of routine, disconnect, loss of freedom to go about everyday life, depleted energies in spite of more than normal rest, and having a same routine every day. This phenomenon is the result of all the emotional stress brought about by the current circumstances we are in, the expert added.

Today, in Covid 19 times, this stress varies from person to person, but there are some common factors, like the inability to engage in meaningful and pleasurable activities (sports, walks, drives, movies, family get together etc.). The endlessness of the situation has taken a definite toll and is getting compounded over fast.

Quarantine fatigue is manifesting both emotionally and physically. The symptoms include:

* Mild to severe physical fatigue
*Disturbed sleep/oversleeping
*Apathy, lethargy, lack of motivation
*Emotional liability/unstable emotions
*Feelings of intense loneliness and disconnection
*Feeling hopeless

How to deal with quarantine fatigue

It is tough to say when and if, things will feel “normal”. You might not feel 100-per cent better until you are out in the real world again but overcoming such a strong obstacle requires inner strength. It’s time to start working on it, said Dr Gaur.

ALSO READ | Try this deep breathing technique to relieve stress

Count on these tips

*Talk about how you feel and share it with others.
*Take breaks from your phone and all types of media.
*Create a routine.
*Try a home makeover, gardening, cleaning etc.
*Plan on how and where to spend your energy
*Try breathwork, yoga and meditation.
*Rediscover self and find a purpose.
*Do not lose hope

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Mumbai, Delhi among top cities seeking online consultations for mental health, report finds

The report stated that the queries mainly revolved around issues of stress, isolation, claustrophobia, being unproductive, anger, irritation, loneliness, mood swings, to name a few.

Amid the ongoing pandemic, many people have struggled with mental health issues. Across the world, it has been reported widely that there has been a mental health crisis in a span of a few months, what with people having to stay locked up in their homes, anxious about the ongoing health crisis.

Now, a recent study has revealed that Indians, in particular, are grappling with multiple forms of mental health issues that have risen exponentially post the coronavirus outbreak. Conducted by Lybrate — which is one of India’s largest health and wellness platforms — the study states that there has been over 180 per cent rise in online patient consultations around mental health conditions on the platform. Lybrate has witnessed over 225 per cent jump in online consultations by females and 150 per cent by males.

The highest jump has been witnessed in the city of Mumbai (205 per cent), followed by Delhi (180 per cent), Pune (170 per cent), Ahmedabad (155 per cent), Chennai (142 per cent), Bangalore (115 per cent), Kolkata (109 per cent) and Hyderabad (102 per cent). The platform said that it came up with the insights post analysis of data gathered between March 1 and June 20, 2020.

ALSO READ | Watch: Deepika Padukone shares heartwarming film on mental health

Other cities which have found a place in the list include Indore (141 per cent), Lucknow (135 per cent), Kochi (127 per cent), Patna (122 per cent), Bhopal (104 per cent), Bhubaneshwar (98 per cent) and Chandigarh (97 per cent). In terms of age, the jump has been highest in the 25-45 age group. People in the 45-60 age bracket were next to have asked the majority of queries on the platform.

“Mental health became a point of concern for a majority of Indians after COVID-19. We noticed on our platform that even specialists who did not deal with the subject were being consulted about mental health issues. Given the demanding situation, we provided a basic session to doctors; psychologists on our platform trained them on how to better counsel those seeking help regarding mental health problems. As the questions asked were mostly generic in nature, we thought it would come handy for those doctors who want to help out during the crisis,” Saurabh Arora, Founder & CEO of Lybrate said.

The report stated that the queries mainly revolved around stress, isolation, claustrophobia, being unproductive, anger, irritation, loneliness, mood swings, not being able to cope with family members around, rifts between spouses, coping mechanisms, uncertainty and helplessness, along with a substantial rise in queries from working people about job losses and related stress, fear and worry on resuming offices at a time when COVID-19 cases are rising in the country, among others.

ALSO READ | 500% rise in healthcare teleconsultation in India, 80% are first-time users: Report

The World Health Organisation, meanwhile, has called upon countries in the South-East Asia Region to pay greater attention to mental health and suicide prevention.

“Hitting lives and livelihoods, the pandemic is causing fear, anxiety, depression and stress among people. Social distancing, isolation and coping with perpetually-evolving and changing information about the virus has both triggered and aggravated existing and pre-existing mental health conditions which need urgent attention,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region has said, adding that early identification of mental health conditions, recognition of suicidal behaviours and appropriate management through a multi-sectoral approach is important.

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