WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Stress is a killer, among other things, so being able to measure it now means it’s easier for people to know when others need help.
Do any of us really know how stressed we are, on like an actual measurable scale? And if we could measure stress would any of us care anyway? Well, while most of us have a pretty good sense of when we’re getting too stressed, people with certain mental health issues may benefit from being made aware of the situation so they can take the appropriate action. And now, in a world first, a new palm-worn electronic smart tattoo could help in that regard. Futhermore, when combined with a smart tattoo that can read your mind and your moods it could really help when it comes to helping people manage all manner of mental health issues.
The prototype device is being developed by scientists at the University of Texas at Austin, and Texas A&M University, and given the fact that today over 1 in 6 of us have a mental health issue, especially after the global pandemic, it could literally be a life saved – especially when combined with other technologies and innovations.
The new device monitors the palm’s galvanic skin response – essentially how much the skin is sweating – which is a fairly reliable indicator of how much stress a person is currently experiencing. Although other experimental wearables have been created to serve that same purpose, many have been bulky, unreliable and or very visible, the latter making the wearer feel self-conscious.
The e-tattoo reportedly addresses these shortcomings. It consists of two electrodes, which take the form of thin ribbons made of overlapping layers of graphene and gold. Those electrodes lead into a wrist-worn smartwatch, that continuously analyses and records the wearer’s galvanic skin response data.
Although the electrodes are only applied temporarily as needed, they still stay securely in place when performing everyday activities such as driving or grasping objects – they’re also very sweat-resistant. Because they’re so thin and mostly transparent, they’re additionally quite stealthy, so people other than the wearer aren’t likely to notice them.
In previous studies, other thin-film wearable sensors have tended to break as the underlying body part moves back and forth. The e-tattoo gets around this problem by giving the electrodes an undulating serpentine structure, which allows them to stretch and contract like springs instead of snapping.
It is hoped that along with helping people to monitor their own emotional state, the e-tattoo sensor could also relay data to caregivers such as psychologists, letting them know if the current therapy is working.
“You want to know whether people are responding to this treatment,” said the lead scientist, U Texas Austin’s Prof. Nanshu Lu. “Is it helping them? Right now, that’s hard to tell but we think that this can solve that.”
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.