Gutierrez and colleagues receive award to develop physiological games for stress management

Dr. Ricardo Gutierrez-Osuna (Texas A&M Department of Computer Science and RgutierEngineering, pictured), Dr. Beena Ahmed (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M at Qatar), and Dr. Eva Shipp (Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the  Texas A&M Health Science Center) have received a three-year award from the Qatar National Research Fund in excess of $1 million to develop physiological games for stress management in the workplace. 

Job stress has become a global epidemic that can have serious health consequences, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and mental health. At the workplace, stress can lead to increased irritability, frustration and disorganization, interferes with learning, communication, and decision making, and ultimately reduces efficiency and productivity. Existing stress-management interventions require that the subject adheres to a training regime, but suffer from high attrition rates since practicing can be frustrating and monotonous. In addition, these techniques teach subjects how to regulate their stress response in a quiet, relaxed environment, a skill that may not transfer to stressful, high-stakes scenarios, when it is really needed.

To address these issues, the investigators propose to develop a new stress-management program that engages and motivates users, and also teaches them to remain calm while performing stressful tasks. The approach leverages the broad appeal of computer games, the availability of mobile devices, and prior research by the investigators on wearable sensors. Namely, the approach consists of monitoring the user’s physiology during gameplay, and adapting the game in a way that encourages the user to maintain a relaxed, calm state. The focus will be on low-cost inconspicuous sensors and mobile-based games, so that users are able to practice anywhere and anytime.