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Innovative Device Predicts When Person With Epilepsy Will Have A Seizure But Can It Also Work On Autism Outbursts?

Photo Courtesy Of Empatica Instagram


In the age of technology, it seems like you can find a device for just about anything. An innovative new device is promising to predict when a person with epilepsy will have a but can it also work on autism outbursts?


The device resembles an Apple Watch but instead of just counting your steps and relaying when you’re receiving a call, this discreet wristband will give caregivers a warning a minute before the person with autism is about to become aggressive to themselves or others.


Aggression can be unpredictable and can affect a person on the spectrum’s life and their family’s lives as well. Aggression in someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be categorized by verbally threatening or cursing at someone else and can get as severe as getting physically assaulted by someone biting, hitting, or throwing things at another person. The watch is made by a company based in Massachusetts called Empatica and it works by detecting a person’s heart rate, sweat levels, movement, and skin temperature.


With a combination of these different things, the watch can tell with 70 percent accuracy but when researchers build the watch using data from an individual, that percentage goes up to 84 percent. The kinks have been worked out and the Empatica device is now on the market.


In order to train the device to be sensitive to the body working itself up to tantrum, researchers worked with 20 nonverbal people who are on the spectrum who had recently been admitted to an inpatient psychiatric unit. Each of the participants of the experiment was given a wristband and were asked to go about their regular day.

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After collecting data for about 87 hours — which is about 3 days — researchers were able to record about 548 aggressive episodes and found different influencing factors that might affect why a person might have a tantrum. The device was able to predict something was brewing from three to one minute before an actual episode.


The machine learning device uses an algorithm which works best when it’s tailored to each user’s particular need. Researchers have a lot more work to do to make the device apt for public use. Still, the device promises to change the lives of those on the spectrum and their families. If families are able to predict when an outburst is about to happen, they can avoid their loved ones from getting hurt or from hurting someone else.


Research about aggression among individuals with ASD, specifically children, is few and far between. Factors like gender, IQ levels, family income, family education, and parenting style all affect a child with ASD’s aggression levels. A study conducted in 2012 by two doctors surveyed 1,380 children with ASD between the ages of four and 17.


The research was unlike any other as it kicked off counting on a rich set of data including information about the children’s IG, information about the children’s repetitive behaviors, receptive language, and their emotional and behavioral functioning.


Researchers found that among the entire group of children surveyed, 56 percent of them engage in aggressive behaviors toward their caregivers and 32 percent of the children exhibited those same aggressive behaviors toward strangers. This proves that aggressivity among children with ASD is becoming an issue and items like Empatica are looking to change that.


Today, the Empatica device is being widely used to detect seizures among those who suffer from epilepsy.


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