New Wearable Tracking Device Shows Potential for Diagnosing and Treating Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors

A research team, headed by scientists at the Child Mind Institute, has developed an innovative wearable tracking device that uses multiple sensors—thermal, proximity, and inertial measurement—to achieve greater precision in position tracking. The results of the study have been reported in npj Digital Medicine. 302748

Called Tingle, the wrist-worn device is also capable of differentiating between behaviors aimed toward six varied positions on the head.

The paper titled, “Thermal Sensors Improve Wrist-worn Position Tracking,” offers preliminary proof of the promising applications of the device in the diagnosis and management of body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs), such as nail-biting, excoriation disorder (chronic skin-picking), trichotillomania (chronic hair-pulling), and so on.

Headed by Arno Klein, PhD, Director of Innovative Technologies, Joseph Healey Scholar, and Senior Research Scientist in the Center for the Developing Brain at the Child Mind Institute, the researchers conducted a study in which 39 healthy adult volunteers were asked to do a sequence of repetitive behaviors while wearing the Tingle device, and then they subsequently collected the data.

The Institute’s MATTER Lab designed the Tingle device to passively gather accelerometer, proximity, and thermal data.

Dr Klein and coworkers observed that the thermal sensor data enhanced the potential of the Tingle device to precisely differentiate between the position of a hand at varied locations on the head, which could be valuable for identifying clinically-pertinent BFRBs. BFRBs are associated with a range of neurological and mental illnesses, such as Parkinson’s disease, Tourette syndrome, and autism.

Body-focused repetitive behaviors can cause significant harm and distress. Our findings are quite promising because they indicate that the thermal sensors in devices like the Tingle have potential uses for many different types of hand movement training, in navigation of virtual environments, and in monitoring and mitigating repetitive, compulsive behaviors like BFRBs.

Dr Arno Klein, Director of Innovative Technologies, Joseph Healey Scholar, and Senior Research Scientist, Center for the Developing Brain, Child Mind Institute

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