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Friday, April 19, 2024

Little Friends: We can measure individual wellness… here is how

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I have often admitted my interest in pursuing new and innovative approaches to helping the people we serve at Little Friends. Recently I had a meeting with Dr. Paul Zak, Professor of Economic Sciences and Psychology at Claremont Graduate University, regarding his book and company called “Immersion Neuroscience.”

Dr. Zak, ranked in the top .3% of all scientists cited for his research work, is clearly a lot smarter than I will ever be. However, his work over the past several years has been on measuring brain activity through an app tied to your smartwatch that provides the individual direct feedback on the things that make someone emotionally fit and secure.

From previous columns, some of the Positively Naperville readers may remember that we have been in a pilot using a smartwatch to measure heart rate variability on some children to see if we can predict when a child is about to become dysregulated. As a quick update, the pilot is still in progress as the initial technology we used on the child’s wrist was not as reliable as we needed. We upgraded to a better device, and I’m pleased to share that there is progress showing it can work for some.

However, with Dr. Zak’s innovations, the smartwatch (with the user’s consent) measures brain activity that provides an indication of someone’s wellness on a day-to-day basis and over time can help predict moods that may indicate a need for intervention. With all of the focus today on wellness and mental health, I not only found our conversation fascinating, but see a number of opportunities where we could use this technology as a complement to our work helping young adolescents challenged by social and emotional issues currently in their lives.

We are beginning our journey with the hopes of being able to implement this technology and help those students who choose to want to use this. We know that this will not work unless the user makes the decision to implement the program. We also know that this can be kept very private, and the data that is being captured will only be shared if the person using the technology wants it to be shared. It is not an invasion of privacy, but rather a tool to let someone better understand what makes them feel better about themselves and safe.

I realize that some reading this may have interest in pursuing this for themselves. I went to their website using a Google search using “Immersion Neuroscience” and the program was titled “Best.Tuesday.Ever.” Enjoy the reading, as I thought it was fascinating and something we will be pursuing in the months ahead.

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Mike Briggs
Mike Briggshttp://littlefriendsinc.org
Mike Briggs is the President and CEO of Little Friends. Little Friends empowers clients with autism and other developmental disabilities to thrive in our community. Their groundbreaking programs and nationally-renowned staff provide lifelong opportunities for growth, so their clients can work, learn, play and experience the joy of life’s everyday moments.
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