Can a Smartphone Make You Smarter?

Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Using smartphones and other mobile communications devices have become a way of life for many of us. As of 2010, there were over 7.000 health applications for mobile devices – and the list keeps growing. Dr. Shore and colleagues have cataloged and prioritized applications for mental health for the military and summarized three leading military mental health projects using mobile technologies [1].

Military Personnel showing individual information on cell phone
[Flickr, Operation Lone Star by Texas Military Forces, CC BY-ND 2.0] Retrieved on September 17, 2015

Mobile Health, or mHealth (using mobile communication devices for health care services), can improve traditional mental health practices by enhancing communication, enriching health information, encouraging engagement, and improving compliance. Mobile technology can be used easily on-base or in the civilian community, is easily accessible (can be carried in a pocket, purse, or backpack), and can provide patient physiological data as well as voice and text communications. A wide range of mHealth applications for the military have been developed or are in development. Some of the projects being developed include:

  • Remote Exercises for Learning Anger and Excitation Management (RELAX): This application collects self-reported information about the emotions of the user and physiological information that is reported to a therapist to assist in therapist-directed feedback to address anger and stress.
  • Remote PTSD monitoring and diagnosis using an automated system: The application uses voice analysis software to screen and identify individuals at risk for PTSD.
  • A Conversational Independent Living Assistant for Cognitive Impairments: This project extends the current Planning and Execution Assistant Trainer (PEAT) to help users in the VA system to plan, execute, and monitor daily activities. The application is planned to have a virtual caregiver who interacts with the user.
  • Naturalistic Neurocognitive Assessment: A video game for smartphones, the application assesses increasingly complex neurocognitive metrics.

While there are many opportunities to develop innovative mobile technology solutions, there is a limited base of mental health literature evaluating outcomes when using these devices. Still in its infancy, the field of mobile technology and of mHealth is fast moving and provides many possibilities for uses in mental health for care providers in the future.

References

[1] Shore, J. H., Aldag, M., McVeigh, F. L., Hoover, R. L., Ciulla, R., & Fisher, A. (2014). Review of mobile health technology for military mental health. Military Medicine, 179(8), 865-878. doi:10.7205/MILMED-D-13-00429

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

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