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Can a breathing robot reduce sleep problems and overexcitation in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder?

 

In a research project funded by the Daimler and Benz Foundation, scientists are using human-machine interaction methods to investigate whether a breathing robot can reduce sleep problems and overexcitation in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder. The aim is to test and further develop measures for robot-assisted therapy.

A third of the overall population experience a traumatic event at least once in their lifetime – a car accident, a natural disaster, or rape. Twelve percent of the survivors of such events develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Affected patients experience a persistent sense of threat and physical overexcitation; eight out of ten have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night.

In this pilot study, scientists from the Trauma and Stress Research Group of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at MSH Medical School Hamburg are for the first time testing a robot-assisted approach to reducing sleep problems and overexcitation in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder. In the research project funded by the Daimler and Benz Foundation, patients are given a robot that simulates human breathing and adapts its breathing rhythm to that of the patient. This mechanism is intended to reduce the human patient’s breathing frequency.

The researchers are matching the results with individual physiological characteristics of the patients to investigate the assumed functional principles. They are also setting out to clarify whether regular use of the breathing robot can in fact reduce overexcitation and sleep problems in existing cases of post-traumatic stress disorder. These findings are expected to promote the further development of robot-assisted therapy approaches and to evaluate their effectiveness.

Project management
  • Prof. Dr. Annett Lotzin, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, MSH Medical School Hamburg
Participating scientists
  • Isabell Laskowsky, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, MSH Medical School Hamburg
Further information