Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Since I last posted I’ve spent weeks recovering from graduate school (still not done yet), moved 500 miles and started a job, and spent the last week being upset about the recent church shooting in Tennessee.  I was not there and don’t want to borrow someone’s tragedy in the “my cousin’s sister’s mother goes there and I could have gone and been killed!” sense, but I know some of the people involved and have been worrying enough about everyone there that it hurts.  Not a useful thing to do for anyone including me, but hard to stop.

Anyway.  Here’s an interesting article: What don’t we know about the pharmaceutical industry? A Freakonomics Quorum. From Freakonomics (as you might guess) at the New York Times.

The first and last author describe pharmaceutical  industry practices that I think a lot of people actually do know about.  The other three involve chain pharmacies making huge profits off generics (surprise to me), and market forces and incentives for research and development of new drugs (two authors, both pharmaceutical employees, you might consider reading them nonetheless).

This is a huge problem for me and has been so for about eight years.  It’s not that I sleep through alarms, it’s that always, absolutely no matter what, unless I am responsible to other people to be somewhere on time, going back to bed is incredibly attractive and the world outside seems miserable and desolate.  (It’s worse when I’m actually depressed.)

When I think about it at any other time, I think, “My god, how could I possibly be so stupid as to keep going back to bed?” but, unfortunately, knowing down to the core of my bones that I am a stupid horrible lazy person I am does not enable to me to magically get out of bed.  It actually tends to make things worse, because the worse I feel the less I want to get out of bed.

There are two possible problems a person can have here.  One is not sleeping through the alarm; the other is staying out of bed.  You can usually fix the first with a superloud alarm or a vibrating alarm or a light alarm or all three.   The second is harder.  I need to be out of bed for long enough that I’m fully mentally awake.  When I was in sophomore year in college, I got up and stayed up on time every day because I was sleeping in a top bunk without a ladder, and by the time I was awake enough to clamber back up the furniture I was using to get into the bunk, I no longer wanted to.   I can’t practically build a loft in my current apartment, but I think doing something cognitively engaging would work, for me and possibly for other people.

So I had this awesome idea for a computer program alarm clock that would stay off only if you answered a number of flash cards correctly, or touch-typed for a certain amount of time with a certain amount of speed and accuracy.  Several other people have had a similar idea about a math-problem alarm clock, including a friend’s roommate who wrote one in Python.  I don’t actually know Python well enough to convert it, and may not be able to take the time to, but that’s still pretty damn cool.  I’ve thought about writing one in Javascript, which I do know, but probably not well enough to write it before classes start.
Unfortunately, no one seems to implemented something similar yet for computers (although there is Sleeper Killer for the Nintendo DS).  There are some similar physical alarm clocks, but they’re not that cognitively engaging and are kind of expensive.  And some dude in Japan will come vacuum your face to wake you up, but that’s not practical if you don’t live in Japan or don’t want your face vacuumed.

So for lack of sufficient programming skill, I’m looking into this instead, which I found while searching for alarm clocks today.  The basic idea is that you want to train yourself to get out of bed and stay out of bed when the alarm goes off.  So, train yourself to do it automatically by doing it when you’re awake enough to actually stay out of bed – and keep training yourself until it starts transferring over to when you wake up in the morning.

I’m also working on some CBT trying to address the thing where I’m convinced that if I get up in the morning in response to my alarm I’ll feel desolate and lonely, since that’s not actually true for more than a brief period of time.

As an adjunct to all that, I would like to get somebody to build me a working bacon alarm clock.  Mmmm….

Unfortunately, it’s not free to the public like the article implies; you have to be a “qualified investigator for research with legitimate scientific aims”.  (I think they just mean “not proprietary” by public.)

But still.  Huge online databases are some of the best new tools technology can give research.  I’m glad we’re seeing more and more.

And dammit, I want to poke around in the database.

I wanted to title this entry “Duke Nukem Helps Detect Depression” but that would have been an exaggeration. However, the game in question was modeled after Duke Nukem, and it shows group differences in spatial cognition between depressed and normal people (but it is not sensitive enough to diagnose an individual).

UCSD researchers have come up with a shirt that takes various physiological measurements from people, and have found distinct patterns between people with schizophrenia and people with bipolar disorder. This is of note particularly because it can be very hard for clinicians to distinguish someone having a manic episode from someone who is schizophrenic. But it’s also interesting because anything that tells us more about what’s going on can lead to better treatment…

Here’s the link with the somewhat misleading headline (it’s not really about monitoring in the treatment sense, it’s not even in the pipeline, but it is an extremely interesting study):

Wearable Technology Helps Monitor Mental Illness

I also like that they mention difficulty filtering information. It can be a pretty big issue but because it’s not psychosis, nor mood, it’s not so well-known. One of my own problems, whenever I feel off in whatever way, is getting overwhelmed by sensory input and having to leave social situations because I can’t take it anymore. (Medication has definitely helped with that.)

Anyway. I wonder if something like this will eventually come into play in childhood bipolar diagnosis? That’s contentious in part because it’s very hard to diagnose in kids who don’t have clearcut manic periods.

Personally, I think they should make it Hypercolor and just have it turn different colors.