A University of Minnesota research team was recently awarded two grants totaling more than $3 million from the National Science Foundation’s Cyber-Enabled Discovery and MRI Programs to create robotic devices and computer vision algorithms that will assist with the early diagnosis of children at risk of developing disorders such as autism, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
The team led by computer science and engineering professor Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos in the University’s College of Science and Engineering, is developing robotic instruments that could observe and automatically analyze abnormalities in children’s movements and behaviors. Researchers have been using the Xbox Kinect to track the subjects, but in the future the technology could be expanded. By using novel robots, such as robot pets and robotic sandboxes, equipped with specialized detectors and software, the researchers will analyze the probability of abnormalities based on facial expressions and body positions.
“Researchers and scientists believe that psychiatric disorders display subtle physical abnormalities in childhood well before the onset of a full disorder,” said Papanikolopoulos. “We believe that we can use new computational tools, including computer vision and robotics, with a unique new computer vision algorithm to observe and detect abnormalities in motor and emotion in children to automatically analyze them for abnormalities.”
Traditionally, experts have conducted psychiatric assessments using a visual rating system after watching videos of the subjects’ motor movements and facial emotional expressions. Those expert ratings are subjective, and are limited to the observer’s particular expertise. In addition, the method is costly.
This cross-disciplinary research seeks to create a diagnostic instrument for mental disorders that combines the fields of computer vision/robotics and computer science with child psychology and psychiatry.
Using these new tools, the research team members hope to be able to create more effective tools for detecting at-risk children at an earlier age. Ultimately, they hope to create a diagnostic framework, including workshops and tutorials, as well as demonstrations to distribute their work and make it more widely available.
Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. These disorders affect how we feel and behave, and they can manifest real physical symptoms. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating, having a serious impact on daily life.
People often experience a general state of worry or fear before confronting something challenging such as a test, examination, recital, or interview. These feelings are easily justified and considered normal. Anxiety is considered a problem when symptoms interfere with a person’s ability to sleep or otherwise function. Generally speaking, anxiety occurs when a reaction is out of proportion with what might be normally expected in a situation.
Anxiety disorders can be classified into several more specific types. The most common are briefly described below.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social Anxiety Disorder is a type of social phobia characterized by a fear of being negatively judged by others or a fear of public embarrassment due to impulsive actions. This includes feelings such as stage fright, a fear of intimacy, and a fear of humiliation. This disorder can cause people to avoid public situations and human contact to the point that normal life is rendered impossible.
What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by thoughts or actions that are repetitive, distressing, and intrusive. OCD suffers usually know that their compulsions are unreasonable or irrational, but they serve to alleviate their anxiety. Often, the logic of someone with OCD will appear superstitious, such as an insistence in walking in a certain pattern. OCD sufferers may obsessively clean personal items or hands or constantly check locks, stoves, or light switches.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is anxiety that results from previous trauma such as military combat, rape, hostage situations, or a serious accident. PTSD often leads to flashbacks and behavioral changes in order to avoid certain stimuli.
What is Separation Anxiety Disorder?
Separation Anxiety Disorder is characterized by high levels of anxiety when separated from a person or place that provides feelings of security or safety. Sometimes separation results in panic, and it is considered a disorder when the response is excessive or inappropriate.
What is Panic Disorder?
Panic Disorder is a type of anxiety characterized by brief or sudden attacks of intense terror and apprehension that leads to shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and difficulty breathing. Panic attacks tend to arise abruptly and peak after 10 minutes, but they then may last for hours. Panic disorders usually occur after frightening experiences or prolonged stress, but they can be spontaneous as well. A panic attack may lead an individual to be acutely aware of any change in normal body function, interpreting it as a life threatening illness – hypervigiliance followed by hypochondriasis. In addition, panic attacks lead a sufferer to expect future attacks, which may cause drastic behavioral changes in order to avoid these attacks.
What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a chronic disorder characterized by excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worry about nonspecific life events, objects, and situations. GAD sufferers often feel afraid and worry about health, money, family, work, or school, but they have trouble both identifying the specific fear and controlling the worries. Their fear is usually unrealistic or out of proportion with what may be expected in their situation. Sufferers expect failure and disaster to the point that it interferes with daily functions like work, school, social activities, and relationships.
What is a Phobia?
A Phobia is an irrational fear and avoidance of an object or situation. Phobias are different from generalized anxiety disorders because a phobia has a fear response identified with a specific cause. The fear may be acknowledged as irrational or unnecessary, but the person is still unable to control the anxiety that results. Stimuli for phobia may be as varied as situations, animals, or everyday objects. For example, agoraphobia occurs when one avoids a place or situation to avoid an anxiety or panic attack. Agoraphobics will situate themselves so that escape will not be difficult or embarrassing, and they will change their behavior to reduce anxiety about being able to escape.
Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders in the world. We take a look at these disorders.
Everybody feels anxious at times. Anxiety gears you up to face a threatening situation and rouses you to action. In general, it helps you cope.
But if you have an anxiety disorder, this normally helpful emotion can do just the opposite – it can keep you from coping and disrupt your daily life. Anxiety disorders aren’t just a case of “nerves”. They are illnesses, often related to the biological makeup and life experiences of the individual and they frequently run in families.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, each with its own distinct features. Many people have a single anxiety disorder. But it isn’t unusual for an anxiety disorder to be accompanied by another illness, such as depression, an eating disorder, substance abuse or another anxiety disorder.
What are the different types of anxiety disorders?
Phobias are the most common form of anxiety. (See the Post “ Phobias – 540 Common Phobias” . They are characterized by an intense, irrational and almost paralyzing fear of a specific situation or object. Adults with phobias realize their fears are irrational, but often facing, or even thinking about facing, the feared object or situation brings on a panic attack or severe anxiety.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). People with GAD usually expect the worse and worry excessively about everyday life circumstances (such as their health, job, raising of children or finances), or minor matters (such as household chores or renovations – even just getting through the day becomes problematic). The person’s worries are much more than normal day-to-day anxiety. They are excessive, unrealistic, chronic and relentless.
Panic disorder. Panic attacks are characterized by a sudden rush of fear, usually accompanied by a pounding heart, shortness of breath, a choking or suffocating sensation or other physical symptoms. They often occur in response to a stressful situation or during a period of chronic emotional stress. Attacks can occur in the most familiar and seemingly non-threatening settings, at the grocery store, in church or while driving along a familiar road. Sufferers often describe a feeling of unreality during the attack. Someone experiencing a panic attack may feel on the verge of losing control or even dying.
Obsessive-Compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD is characterized by obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are persistent, intrusive and unwanted thoughts; compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts, often linked to obsessions. The obsessions and compulsions are distressing and time-consuming and often lead to impairment in functioning.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a result of exposure to traumatic events, many people display symptoms such as intrusive memories of the event, nightmares, avoiding reminders of the event, feeling anxious or down, detachment from others, and a restricted range of emotions. A diagnosis of PTSD is made if these symptoms are present for more than three months and interfere with functioning.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), also called Social Phobia, is an intense, persistent fear of being humiliated or embarrassed in social situations. Sufferers tend to think other people are very competent in public and that they are not. Small mistakes make appear much more serious than they really are. Blushing may seem painfully embarrassing, and they feel as though all eyes are focused on them. Exposure to the feared social situation or anticipation of the situation can produce an intense and immediate anxiety reaction, including physiological symptoms such as sweating and blushing.