Researching Machine Learning Predictions for Well-being at UW Center for Healthy Minds


Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds are utilizing artificial intelligence to offer individuals support with their mental health in a convenient way. Funded by a $3 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the researchers are striving to understand how to apply well-being practices on mobile phones that are receptive to a person’s current mental state.

The two-year project plans to start with an experiment on human participants that can spot mental states such as loneliness and lack of purpose. The analysis will be used to create algorithms and tools for the Healthy Minds program, already available in the mobile app. In this step, researchers will gather data from users, asking them to provide short videos responding to prompts like “I am feeling…”, while also collecting user activity and location data to assess their overall well-being. The goal is to identify moments when people may benefit from short micro-supportive practices and deliver them at the right moment.

According to Simon Goldberg, assistant professor of counseling psychology at UW-Madison and core faculty at CHM, we are just starting to figure out how to utilize technology in our everyday lives in a way that augments mental health.

“We hope the study will make it possible to develop a platform that provides micro-supports as an algorithm-driven response to what a person is feeling,” adds Christy Wilson-Mendenhall, co-investigator of the project.

The team aims to create a technology that can be tested in real world settings and offer widespread public access through wearable, mobile and web-based devices. The project could offer a cost-efficient way of receiving personalized mental health care for those in need, and help to better understand the link between technology and mental health.

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The Center for Healthy Minds is located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is an oversees a program for scientific research on the mind, with the ultimate goal of fostering well-being and relieving suffering worldwide. The Center’s team of experienced clinicians, faculty and researchers comes from different disciplines and backgrounds to create a community that focuses on finding answers to some of the world’s biggest mental health issues. Led by world-renowned scientist Richard J. Davidson, CHM researches topics like resilience, meditation, mindfulness, ketamine treatment and positive emotions to better understand mental health. With the help of generous donations and generous grants, CHM is dedicated to helping everyone improve their overall well-being.

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