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Image credit: Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

New wristband could predict aggressive outbursts in people with autism

It monitors physiological changes to predict aggressive episodes 60 seconds ahead of time.
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Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Researchers are hoping a new wearable wristband will help predict aggressive outbursts in people with autism. The device monitors heart rate, sweat production, skin surface temperature and arm movements. It can predict outbursts 60 seconds ahead of time with 84 percent accuracy. While that might not seem like much time, it could give caretakers an opportunity to relax the individual wearing the wristband and make sure everyone is safe.

Matthew Goodwin, a Northeastern University behavioral scientist, created the wearable. While the initial tests show promise, Goodwin and his team of researchers only observed 20 children with autism over a period of 87 hours. They tracked each aggressive episode and corresponding physiological changes and then fed that data into their model. Next, Goodwin hopes to test the device with 240 individuals -- thanks in part to funding from the Department of Defense.

"As our data set grows and we use more sophisticated machine learning models, I think we might get more than 60 seconds," Goodwin said. While the technology is still deep in development, it could make a difference in the lives of people with autism, as well as their families and caretakers. It would join other tech like Google Glass, AI and educational apps that have all been used to help individuals with autism.

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