Health Life

An app monitors cancer patients’ health status and rewards participation

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Close2U, an electronic device application, has been developed by researchers at the Complutense University (UCM) and the University of Zaragoza (UZA) to monitor cancer patients’ physical and mental health using gamification.

Users answer a series of daily questions about their mood and where they are experiencing pain. In return, the app rewards them in the form of advice or songs, resources intended to increase their motivation.

“The use of gamification enables more continuous monitoring of by obtaining frequent information about their mood. Among other things, this lets us know if they are depressed, stressed or in pain,” explained Iván García-Magariño, a researcher in the Department of Software Engineering and Artificial Intelligence at the UCM.

The study was conducted in collaboration with the Spanish Cancer Association (Spanish initials: AECC), primarily at its branch in Teruel, where patients tested the app.

Researchers from both universities have reported development of the app and the results obtained in the Journal of Biomedical Informatics and Journal of Healthcare Engineering.

Exchange of resources among patients

For example, for the question “How did you sleep?”, users mark a point on a horizontal line between the two extremes “very badly” and “very well,” while for the question “Where in your body are you experiencing pain?”, the screen displays an image of a body on which patients mark areas affected by .

The information obtained from their answers is sent to a hospital or association physician.

In return, patients are rewarded with advice or songs which “are intended to amuse and entertain them, and which they can also share with other patients to provide mutual support,” observed García Magariño.

He also noted that the researchers were working on incorporating the app on other devices such as smart furniture or watches. “We

Health article

Brain imaging, telehealth studies promise better stroke prevention and recovery

Clinton B. Wright, M.D., M.S.

Stroke research is a priority for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Stroke, which often stops blood from flowing to the brain or causes bleeding in or around the brain, affects almost 800,000 people in the U.S. each year and is the fourth leading cause of death.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) leads stroke research for NIH. Through StrokeNet, a network of 25 research centers across the U.S., NINDS conducts clinical trials focused on prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation.

Clinton B. Wright, M.D., M.S., director of the Division of Clinical Research at NINDS, shared some of the latest research updates and what they mean for stroke treatment in the future.

How has stroke research changed?

It used to be that stroke victims could only come into the hospital within six hours of a stroke to get a brain clot removed. Any longer and it was believed that you would have a brain hemorrhage. Now, with advanced brain-scanning systems, someone can be treated within 16 hours of having a stroke. The NIH-supported DEFUSE 3 trial helped change the guidelines for treating strokes. We can identify at-risk brain tissue and save many more lives much sooner.

“Now, with advanced brain-scanning systems, someone can be treated within 16 hours of having a stroke.”

– Clinton B. Wright, M.D., M.S.

What other stroke research are you working on?

Currently, we are funding several clinical trials comparing different therapies and the effectiveness of acute treatment and recovery. In addition to DEFUSE 3, here are two important ones:

Telerehab: NIH funded a study on delivering patient rehabilitation care via a computer or mobile device in the person’s home. A lot of people don’t get rehabilitation services because they’re very expensive. We still need to do more trials with

Health Life

Study reveals design flaws of chatbot-based symptom-checker apps

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Millions of people turn to their mobile devices when seeking medical advice. They’re able to share their symptoms and receive potential diagnoses through chatbot-based symptom-checker (CSC) apps.

But how do these apps compare to a trip to the doctor’s office?

Not well, according to a new study. Researchers from Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology have found that existing CSC apps lack the functions to support the full diagnostic process of a traditional visit to a medical facility. Rather, they said, the apps can only support five processes of an actual exam: establishing a patient history, evaluating symptoms, giving an initial diagnosis, ordering further , and providing referrals or other follow-up treatments.

“These apps do not support conducting physical exams, providing a final diagnosis, and performing and analyzing test results, because these three processes are difficult to realize using mobile apps,” said Yue You, a graduate student in the College of Information Sciences and Technology and lead author on the study.

In the study, the researchers investigated the functionalities of popular CSC apps through a feature review, then examined user experiences by analyzing user reviews and conducting user interviews. Through their user experience analysis, You and her team also found that users perceive CSC apps to lack support for a comprehensive medical history, flexible symptom input, comprehensible questions, and diverse diseases and user groups.

The findings could inform functional and conversational design updates for health care chatbots, such as improving the functions that enable users to input their symptoms or using comprehensible language and providing explanations during conversations.

“Especially in health and medicine, [another question is] is there something else we should consider in the chatbot design, such as how should we let users describe their symptoms when interacting with the chatbot?”

Health article

Brain Donation: A Gift for Future Generations

Our brains are amazing, intricate networks that help us think, love, and breathe. But sometimes things go awry and cause brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. By studying the brains of people who have died — both those who had a brain disorder and those who were healthy during life — researchers learn more about how types of dementia affect the brain and how we might better treat and prevent them. Brain donation provides an opportunity to help researchers better understand these disorders, which can lead to improved treatments for future generations.

While many people think that signing up to be an organ donor includes donating their brain, the purpose and the process of brain donation are different. Rather than helping to keep others alive, such as with kidney donation, brain donation helps advance scientific research. One donated brain can make a huge impact, potentially providing information for hundreds of studies. But many brains are needed from diverse populations and ages to help researchers investigate the causes of disease and to develop more effective therapies that can then be applied broadly.

Why Donate Your Brain?

Family reading: Grandparents reading a book to 3 small children who are sitting on their laps. People choose to donate their brains after death for various reasons. For some, the primary motivation is to