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Surprising Science

New Wrist Sensor Tells You if You’re Stressed

Amid rising concerns over post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses, two MIT startups are developing wrist-worn sensors that can detect physiological signs of stress. 

What’s the Latest Development?

By measuring physiological metrics associated with higher stress levels, a new device worn on the wrist could help doctors diagnose and treat anxiety disorders such as PTSD. “The data collected by these devices can be fed into an algorithm that aims to learn what triggers anxiety, or when people may be about to engage in a risky behavior. One goal is to head off destructive behavior, from drug abuse to suicide and violent outbursts, and to help with treatment.” The technology will likely become available to the public as apps connected to smart phone processors. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Robert Goldberg, a neuroscientist and founder of a company that is pioneering the devices, points to a grim national backdrop: “One in three U.S. adults has a form of mental disorder—ranging from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to PTSD—making it the third-largest category of health-care spending.” By bringing mobile portable technologies to brain health, Goldberg wants to empower patients and doctors to make faster diagnoses. He says the device will be available by the end of 2013 and cost between $249 and $1,499 depending on features. 

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