Workshop with the Sense-IT biofeedback platform

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Many mHealth applications aim to coach users in achieving a healthier, happier life. However, many of these e-coaches lack research on its effectiveness or sound background knowledge of its target users. When those apps are being picked up and relied upon by vulnerable user groups in need of support it could render negative effects for their health and wellbeing. One such vulnerable group are patients with a borderline personality disorder (BPD). Patients suffering from BPD experience great difficulties in regulating their emotions. As a consequence, these patients frequently engage in self-harming behaviors.
One factor contributing to difficulties in regulating emotions is a deficit in the ability recognize emotions. In clinical literature, this often addressed as ‘low emotional awareness’ and/or ‘alexithymia’.
'Emotional awareness' is about the observing, noticing, and consciously experiencing of emotions. It is a higher-order cognitive process that should lead to 'feeling the feeling'.
However, an emotion can be present physiologically, physically and witnessed in behavior by others, while personal awareness stays out.
When there is a marked deficit in emotional awareness, one could suffer from 'alexithymia'. Although alexithymia translates from Greek as 'no words for emotion', this does not really grasp the underlying problem: at its core, alexithymia is about 'not knowing' [agnosia], not a 'lack of words’ [anomia]. In BPD, especially the awareness of changing levels of emotional arousal seems to be subject to this ‘agnosia’.
The UT and Scelta/GGNet, together with VUmc, Arkin and Pluryn, work on a project called ‘Sense-IT’.
Goal is to develop a scientifically informed, ambulatory biofeedback e-coaching app that supports its users in learning to better recognize changes in emotional arousal.
We’ve adopted a ‘natural science-informed, user centered design science approach’ to structure the development of this mHealth application in a mental health setting.
‘Over-the-counter’ wearables are being used as development platform: Android (Wear) watches and phones.

As of now, the app is in beta-stages. Further development is needed before releasing this app for clinical use. However, preliminary results from pilot-testing show that the app is easy to use. Patients experienced the prototype as beneficial to their cause and said they would have liked to continue using it after the user-testing ended.
Content of the workshop:
After a short introduction to the theory of emotional awareness and alexithymia, and presentation of the latest results from our pilot-studies, there is room for hands-on experience with the latest (bèta-) version of the Sense-IT app. Adjusting to the level of emotional awareness of the patient is critical; with alexithymia present this is often at the level of basic physiological action…

Introduction on alexithymia, BPD and mHealth involving biofeedback. Presentation of latest results; providing hands-on experience and collecting feedback from participants.
Content and activities:
In this workshop you can experience for yourself what’s it like to use the app to train emotional awareness while doing several tasks and exercises.
We also invite you to share your thoughts on the app, future possibilities and constraints, use in other domains of healthcare, et cetera.
Period1 Jun 2018
Event title8ste Conference Supporting Health By Technology 2018
Event typeConference
Conference number8
LocationEnschede, NetherlandsShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational