Category Archives: Research

Seniors Traveling Virtually

Senior woman using vr glassesExciting things continue to happen at the interface between tech and psychology.  In this case new applications in Virtual Reality are serving the needs of seniors in retirement homes who tend to be limited in their ability to travel and continue experiencing the world directly.  We know that depression in seniors can result from the inevitable decline in health and the related difficulty of being present and engaged in social events. is a new startup testing out the ability of seniors to travel virtually and experience the world in new ways.  One application of this is for family members to rent the camera system that would allow the senior to experience an event in real time as though he/she were present in person.  What an exciting idea!  See the story here.

A similar idea has been piloted in Australia by Feros Care where a robot (IPad mounted on a Segway) can roam in various locations all the while controlled remotely by seniors in a retirement home.  How cool is that !

(Here’s a local example in San Francisco using more static content. )

While the robot system has some advantages of mechanically responding to instructions from the senior, I wonder if a human avatar would be more responsive and adaptable.  In the future there might be a new industry of human “traveling avatars”, equipped with camera systems, who would be employed to travel to interesting destinations or events, live-feeding the experience back to the senior who would otherwise not be able to attend.  While there is no substitute for “being there”, this could be the closest experience for a senior who would otherwise not be able to have the experience…

Your Brain on Porn

young man in bed couch at home late at night with intense face expression using mobile phone in low light watching online porn enjoying alone in internet addictionI recently found several resources that are helpful in portraying the effects of porn on the brain:

The Great Porn Experiment

Adolescent Brain Meets High Speed Porn

One of the videos is a TED talk by Gary Wilson, affiliated with the site who is listed as a past physiology teacher.  He noted in one of his disclaimers that he is not religious and doesn’t want to do away with porn, but is also dedicating a lot of effort in highlighting research studies that reveal the harmful effects of porn.  His Ted talk and the other video on the effects of high speed internet porn on the adolescent brain are best understood with some background on the  assumptions that he makes and some basic information about scientific research.

The videos highlight several animal studies and draw potential implications for humans watching porn.  This is due to some limitations of direct experimentation on people and also a long established history of using animal brain models to extrapolate potential similarities in the human brain.

The premise of the “Great Porn Experiment” is that it has been difficult for researchers to find control subjects, often college-aged men, who can attest that they have not had exposure to porn.  This lack of a control makes it difficult to conduct the classical scientific experiment that would seek to observe the effect of altering a single variable compared with the control group.

However, a within-group control has in effect developed due to a growing trend of men who have unhooked themselves from porn due to their experiencing porn induced erectile dysfunction (PIED).   Thus we can have some qualitative accounts of before and after effects of stopping porn.

Many men have finally found the motivation to stop porn when they have gotten to the point of erectile dysfunction and the reaching the conclusion that the hyperstimulated desensitization of porn on chemical pathways in the brain is causing problems in the bedroom and a dysfunction from an evolutionary perspective.  While Gary’s lack of a “religious” perspective limits his acknowledgement of a Creator who designed sexual functioning, at least he can document that dysfunction is happening.  Chasing increasingly stimulating porn, darker porn, or porn that may not be aligned with your sexual orientation, is not a harmless exercise but in fact may lead to potentially serious physical, emotional, and psychological consequences.

These videos can be a helpful wake up call to the growing epidemic of porn use and highlight the newer trend of unhooking from porn.  The website also has a list of referenced research articles, other testimonies, and resources that may be helpful.


Iphone Detecting Bipolar Swings

Saleswoman displaying iphone to camera, based on touch-pad technologyBipolar Disorder continues to be difficult to assess and diagnose accurately given that there has not been any recognized blood test or easily sampled biomarker. While there are some iphone apps to help document mood swings, recent small study in Italy has demonstrated how technology may be used to help with monitoring the characteristic swing of moods. The study used a very small sample size of 12 patients over the course of 12 weeks but it illustrates a potential way that technology might be used to track some of the behaviors that are often associated with bipolar mood swings such as hyperactivity and rapid speech that was operationalized as increased iphone use,  Accurate assessment and diagnosis continues to rely on accurate self reports and reports by friends or family members but perhaps technological approaches with new sensors and tracking approaches can help to better monitor and plan treatment.