Thu. Sep 28th, 2023
    New Wearable Device Measures Intensity of Scratching to Evaluate Medication Efficacy

    Akhil Padmanabha, a Ph.D. student in Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, has helped invent a wearable device that can accurately measure the intensity of scratching. This device has the potential to help researchers evaluate the effectiveness of medications aimed at reducing itching.

    Itch is a common complaint among patients seen by dermatologists, with conditions like eczema, psoriasis, allergic reactions, and liver disease being major causes. However, measuring the intensity of scratching has been a challenge in researching and evaluating treatments for itch.

    Padmanabha came up with the idea for the device while reading research articles on wearables for scratch detection. He noticed that existing devices could detect when and how long someone scratched, but they lacked a way to measure the intensity of scratching. This led him to develop a wearable device that could quantify the intensity of scratching.

    The device is worn like a ring on the scratching finger and uses an accelerometer to measure finger movement. However, to capture the high-frequency vibrations associated with scratching, the device also incorporates a contact microphone. This microphone detects vibrations through solid objects, such as a finger, and proved crucial in measuring intensity.

    Padmanabha and his team developed algorithms for the device using data from healthy volunteers who wore the device while scratching a pressure-sensitive tablet. The tablet estimated the scratch intensity, and a machine learning algorithm correlated the sensor data with the scratch intensity estimates. The scratch intensity was then converted to a 0-10 scale commonly used by physicians.

    The researchers found that their device had a mean absolute error of 1.37, indicating a high level of precision. They also discovered that patients’ subjective estimations on the 0-10 scale often varied significantly. This demonstrates the need for an objective measurement like the device Padmanabha developed.

    In the future, this wearable device could be invaluable for researchers testing new drugs and needing to accurately determine their impact on itching. It has the potential to provide valuable insights into the efficacy of medications and improve the treatment of chronic itching.

    – Carnegie Mellon University
    – Communications Medicine journal