The EPRP Internship collaboration between the Department of Psychiatry and the Schools of Engineering resulted in several projects that utilized different devices and platforms ranging from mHealth devices (e.g., smartphones) to actigraphy, biosensors and Google Home (Google Ok!) while targeting improved mental health research and services. The EPRP projects include the following:
At-Home Cognitive Rehabilitation:
Cognitive rehabilitation programs are aimed at helping patients with cognitive problems, such as executive dysfunction, memory problems, visuospatial difficulties, and non-cognitive symptoms affecting cognition, restore normal cognitive functioning. Envisioning an automated two-way communication system that enhances skill attainment, the GoCog project, led by Dr. Raeanne Moore, a faculty member in the Psychiatry Department, prompted the development of an interactive, at-home cognitive rehabilitation program. This program was designed to prompt patients to talk to the Google Home device to complete cognitive exercises, improve calendar usage, monitor daily routines, and employ relaxation strategies. Importantly, Dr. Moore wanted the device to initiate tasks with the patients. To address this, two undergraduate ECE students, Victor Miranda and Yihui Yang programmed a Raspberry Pi microcontroller with an LCD touch screen to recognize a patient's voice and trigger customized rehabilitation sessions. A camera with facial recognition feature was also integrated into the system to initialize sessions. By joining psychiatry and engineering applications, this project holds potential to greatly increase the efficiency and affordability of cognitive rehabilitation programs.
"Participating in EPRP gives me a valuable opportunity to understand the importance to apply my engineering knowledge to real-world applications and expands my vision of being an electrical engineer," said Yihui Yang, an Electrical Engineering major who is continuing in EPRP this summer through the support of the Summer Research Internship Program through the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.
According to his faculty mentor, Dr. Moore, "The success of this program is largely due to the thoughtfulness and creativity of the students. As faculty in Psychiatry, we provided the framework of a project to address a mental health challenge in our patients. The students have turned our ideas into usable and functional projects."
"Being a part of the EPRP program, I was able to use and expand my knowledge of both hardware and software skills to develop a Google Home automation device that can serve as a personal assistant to Parkinson's Disease patients and improve their daily lives. I would highly recommend this program for students willing to apply their technical knowledge in ECE classes to solve problems in other fields, especially those related to health, psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science." said Victor Miranda, a 4th year Electrical Engineering major.
Engaging Facebook to reducing Social Isolation:
"Older persons living with HIV are particularly vulnerable to socially isolating behaviors, which can have downstream negative mental and physical health consequences," says Psychiatry faculty mentor Dr. Raeanne Moore. "We know many of these older adults are using Facebook, so the aim of this project is to utilize this framework and increase social activity in a fun and personalized way." CE Student Meena Kaliswamy is creating a platform on Facebook to increase social engagement among older persons living with HIV. The project is taking on the form of a personality-quiz meets Meetup. "In an effort to decrease social isolation among older HIV+ adults, I'm trying to create a quiz-like platform on Facebook that, based on the user's interests, suggests activities such as local comedy plays, exercise groups, and volunteer events, “says Meena Kaliswamy, a 4th year Computer Engineering student.
Automated Psychotherapy Fidelity Ratings: There is an increase in demand for therapists who are trained to deliver high-fidelity psychotherapy for patients diagnosed with serious mental illness. To train mental health providers to deliver evidence-based psychotherapy interventions, it is essential to rate the fidelity of their psychotherapy sessions and provide feedback about adherence to treatment manuals and standards. Rating fidelity requires many expensive hours of experts listening to session recordings and rating fidelity on standardized scales. Many evidence-based psychotherapy interventions have been developed and recommended for people with mental illness, but these interventions are not available to the majority of patients. To address this, four ECE students, Wenyu Zhang, Nikhil Dutt, Daniel Coronado and Thinh Le, and two faculty mentors, Dr. Eric Granholm in Psychiatry, and Dr. Hari Garudadri in the Qualcomm Institute are working on an automated psychotherapy fidelity rating project. This project uses automated speech recognition, natural language processing, machine learning and neural network modeling, to male automated fidelity rating of psychotherapy sessions possible. This could have enormous public health impact by dramatically increasing the availability and quality of evidence-based psychotherapy treatments for people with mental illness.
Faculty mentor Dr. Garudadri said, "I am really excited to be in the EPRP initiative as Dr. Granholm and I have been making great strides towards normalizing the vocabulary from (a) the mental health domain and (b) the technology domain for ourselves; and training the interns to be productive in this cross-disciplinary research. I am convinced that the bottom-up approach of EPRP and the top-down approach of MHTech will accelerate discoveries in mental health and translate them for wide clinical adoption."
Wenyu Zeng says, "As a graduate student from Computer Engineering major, I enjoy the passion and innovation from interdisciplinary research. There are many technical details we need to consider and optimize when applying our professional knowledge to practical solutions. New ideas and challenges continuously appear by meeting with professors and partners. I am looking forward to witnessing our design benefiting those in need in the future."
Cognitive Brain Computer Interface (CogBCI) Project: The direct interaction between machines and humans using brain activity is referred to as Brain Computer Interface. The CogBCI Project led by Dr. Jyoti Mishra evaluates how humans learn to self-modulate brain signals that are important for attention. ECE students, Yihan Hu and Sovanarung Seng conducted signal processing analytics on a recently acquired CogBCI dataset. They developed objective metrics to demonstrate successful vs. unsuccessful neuromodulation. Yihan Hu was subsequently awarded the Summer Research Internship program (SRIP) scholarship by the ECE department and has continued research with Dr. Mishra on this project. His research has discovered that individuals who learn to successfully modulate their brain signals also show benefits in other unlearned tasks requiring attention discrimination. Yihan is now continuing research to uncover the role of feedback and neural noise in CogBCI learning. The results of this internship project have important implications towards the engineering and translation of scalable CogBCIs as next-generation technology therapeutics for diverse mental health disorders. Yihan says, "EPRP helped me understand the role of engineering in the area of solving mental health problems. It has also strengthened my abilities such as critical thinking, applied programming skills, and data analysis skills."
Marijuana Treatment App: Led by Dr. Kara Bagot, students worked on developing components of an app-based intervention for teens to reduce or quit marijuana use as an adjunct to traditional behavioral therapy. Students worked to "game-ify" cognitive tasks to incorporate in the app as well as an augmented reality task based on GPS to incentivize adherence to juvenile justice, court, medical, and treatment appointments along with improved school attendance.
Several EPRP students who participated in the Summer Research Internship Program had an opportunity to present their projects at the UC San Diego Summer Research Conference.