If Rose Faghih’s project pans out, a seemingly simple smart watch could determine what’s happening deep inside your brain.
Faghih has developed an algorithm to analyze otherwise imperceptible
changes in sweat activity—a key indicator of stress and stimulation. Using two small electrodes attached to the back of a smart watch, she can monitor changes in skin conductance caused by sweat. Signal-processing algorithms then allow Faghih to correlate those changes with specific events, such as a PTSD-related flashback or even just wandering attention, in order to pinpoint the person’s brain state.
Typically, this kind of real-time data is available only by way of expensive scalp-based electrode systems like EEG or functional MRI. Faghih’s “Mindwatch” would in theory be cheap and portable enough to let people monitor their brain states anywhere.
Faghih hopes it will help people manage their own changing moods and mental states: a wearable with her technology could suggest that an agitated driver try some deep breathing or prompt a lonely shut-in to turn on mood-enhancing music. For people with mental illness or chronic conditions like diabetes, it could potentially even trigger an automated deep-brain stimulation device or an insulin pump.