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A watch that monitors stress, tells you what to avoid

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Two startups have developed wrist-worn sensors that can detect the physiological changes that signal the onset of events like anxiety attacks. Technology Review reports.

Data collected by the devices can help researchers learn more about what triggers anxiety in people with post-traumatic stress disorder – ultimately preventing destructive behavior, like drug abuse, violent outbursts, and suicide. More soldiers now die of suicide than in battle.

Boston-based Neumitra’s bandu measures proxies for excitement or stress -- increased motion, increased skin conductance from perspiration, and elevated skin temperature. The device sends readings to your smartphone, which records them for later analysis. It can also be customized with suggestions for you to relax.

It’s already being used at Massachusetts General Hospital to help patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders. Previously, doctors had to rely on the patients’ memory; the device provides moment-to-moment objective data.

Neumitra was inspired in part by a war veteran who was having anxiety attacks. Three years into therapy he realized that one source of his stress triggers were visits to Whole Foods. The new device could give him the same information in a week.

The bandu will sell for $249 to $1,499 and will be made available to consumers next year.

Affectiva, a startup from MIT’s Media Lab, has a sensor – named Q – that’s used in trials attempting to develop a physiological measure of pain (since pain diagnoses currently rely entirely on self-reporting). The device is also in clinical trials in patients with Rett Syndrome, a genetic neurological disorder, to see if drugs produce measurable changes in stress levels and sleep patterns. One day, the Q sensor can also help predict outbursts in autistic children. The device costs $2,000 but isn’t currently marketed to consumers.

[Via Technology Review]

Image by bottled_void via Flickr

— By on December 21, 2012, 3:59 PM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure