Could Texas A&M-developed app serve vets with PTSD?

Published: Nov. 17, 2016 at 6:55 PM CST
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Several different colleges at Texas A&M are collaborating to help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress, and they plan to use technology to address the issue.

Cpl. Dan Murany, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired), continues to carry his military experience with him, as he lives with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"I was in Afghanistan for seven months in 2010 and lost a couple of friends,” said Cpl. Murany. "Sometimes, it gets to be too much. I'll just shut down."

A&M researchers are working to help veterans like Murany to better manage the disorder. The team has created an app that can pair with wearable technologies like heart rate monitors or fitness trackers.

The app monitors things like heart rate, and it alerts the user if they are showing symptoms of PTSD. At the same time, it shares information with the veteran’s doctor, providing measurable data to offer insight into how often and how severe the attacks can be.

"Even if we can save one life, that's what motivating me, waking up in the morning, working on these technologies," said Dr. Farzan Sasangohar, Assistant Professor in the Texas A&M Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

The process is very simple for the user. While wearing a health tracker, if the app detects PTSD symptoms, the user gets a list of notifications telling you steps to get through the attack.

"It intervenes by asking a question: 'how do you feel?' Based on that answer, it connects them to some sort of support system," said Dr. Sasangohar.

Depending on how severe the symptoms are, the notifications can include a prompt to go through breathing exercises, a call to a friend, or a connection to a help line.

Cpl. Murany says that little bit of reassurance could go a long way.

"Having something to just say, 'Hey stop. Take a breath. Relax. Nothing bad is happening,' that would be really cool,” said Cpl. Murany.

Testing is set to begin soon. On Wednesday, the research group spoke to the Veterans Association of the Brazos Valley, and we're told they have already enlisted 45 veterans volunteered for testing.