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 IBM is Developing an Application that Provides Early Warning for Mood Swings and Cravings 

Like most humans, you probably have a problem that you are secretly struggling with. It could be sudden increases in irritability, anxiety, or deep cravings that cause you to fill your belly with unwanted food. Unfortunately, it mostly hits you when you least expect it. If you knew when your cravings would happen, then maybe you could deal with them better or even take steps to prevent them from happening. Wouldn't it be amazing if there was an early warning gadget for mood swings?

One day, thanks to IBM researchers, you may be able to anticipate your personal problems and get around them before you get hit. Scientists are developing portable electronics that can continuously analyze physiological signs and send data to an analytics program operating in the cloud.

That program, in turn, will be able to use your personal data to detect patterns and predict how you will feel, long before you experience it, and also send you a pre-alert, perhaps even via SMS.

"The message could be to take a deep breath,  take a walk, or eat those carrots you have in your bag," said James Kozloski, a neurologist and inventor at IBM - Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York.

Kozloski and colleagues have already developed a prototype of such a system, called Appetit – coined from "appetite" and IT for information technology.

A Shirt to Match Your Device

A person using the system is equipped with a biometric shirt made by the Hexoskin company. The shirt is equipped with sensors that detect critical signs, such as breathing and electrical activity of the heart, in addition to movement. "It can sense when you're shaking," Kozloski explains. This data is transmitted continuously to the cloud, where IBM's analytics software can use it.

The user is also equipped with a smartphone application designed by IBM, including a series of colored buttons. These can be programmed to identify a specified problem - such as a hunger pain or anxiety attack - that the user wants to monitor.

Over time, analytical software identifies patterns in a person's physiological signs and uses them to forecast when a problem will happen again. According to Kozloski, in experimental studies over a six-day period with human subjects, Appetit was able to detect events 10 to 20 minutes in advance with an accuracy of up to 90 percent.

 “The idea of entering your personal data in the cloud might scare some people, but Kozloski remarks that Appetit has built-in privacy measures. The user can tag a colored button to identify any problem, condition, or reaction and does not have to tell the analytics software exactly what it is monitoring." 

A Better Monitoring

Kozloski says he came up with the idea for Appetit after noticing the growing popularity of personalized monitoring gadgets, such as FitBit, among exercisers and athletes trying to boost their performance.

He discussed the idea with colleague Henry Chang, who was interested in building technologies to stimulate patients to handle their appetite, and the two partnered to work together. After a successful presentation to an IBM internal "shark tank," the project obtained funding.

In addition to assisting people in coping with stress and sticking to their diets, he sees technology as a valuable tool to treat mental health problems such as depression. "It can help a person make a change in their cognitive state," he noted.

Kozloski says IBM is now learning how to develop an invention-based product and bring it to market. However, it may be years before this type of technology is targeted at regular customers, if at all because Appetit is still in its early stage.

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