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Use of Technology to Promote Adherence to Behavioral Therapy

Building on Bedford-UMass cue exposure expertise, Dr. Edward Boyer, Professor of Emergency Medicine at UMass, used the laboratory setting to collect baseline data for a predictive algorithm. Using cutting-edge mobile technology developed as part of a research collaboration between UMass, the VA, and MIT, Dr. Boyer’s study used biometrics obtained in the VA’s Neurobiology & Cue Labs to develop a means of predicting drug cravings or PTSD flashbacks based on physiological data. After inpatient veterans with diagnoses of opiate dependence and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are enrolled in the study, they wear a wristband sensor to track changes in heart rate and skin conductance while they are exposed to drug and military trauma cues. By linking these physiological changes with specific cues and matching them with concurrently-administered assessments, it is possible to begin to understand the ways the body reacts to emotional triggers.

Truly translational in nature, after using the cue exposure lab readings to tailor a subject’s personal algorithm by setting the physiological criteria for his or her reaction, Dr. Boyer’s research team follows participants as they become a kind of mobile cue lab—tracking their cravings and answers to questions through a modified, enhanced mobile phone.

The long-term goal of this project is to be able to “head off” drug cravings and traumatic stress flashbacks before they occur—using smart phone technology and discreet sensors to send patient-selected, professionally-approved relapse prevention interventions.