Ongoing Projects - New Technologies for Neuroscience

A digital phenotyping experimental analysis of the productivity and well-being of workers

Massimo Riccaboni, Emiliano Ricciardi

Digital phenotyping is a promising and emerging field that uses the power of technology, particularly personal digital devices, to understand and analyze human behavior and health. By collecting and analyzing data from devices like smartphones and wearables, researchers can gain insights into various aspects of a person’s life and health, including their mobility patterns, physical activity, social interactions, and mental state.

This approach utilizes both active and passive data collection methods. Active data involves direct participation from individuals, such as responding to surveys or inputting information into apps. Passive data collection on the other hand, relies on sensors and data logs from devices to track activities without direct user input. This can include GPS data to understand mobility patterns, accelerometer data for physical activity analysis, or phone usage patterns for insights into social behavior and mental health.

The key advantage of digital phenotyping is its ability to provide a more continuous and objective view of an individual's behavior and health in their natural environment. For instance, by analyzing patterns in mobility or phone usage, researchers can potentially identify early signs of mental health issues or monitor the progression of physical diseases.

In the broader context, digital phenotyping has implications beyond healthcare. It can be used to understand behaviors related to workplace well-being and productivity, lifestyle choices. This tool can finally disentangle the holy grail of the “happy and productive worker” trying to explore the various shades of this phenomenon.

Overall, digital phenotyping represents an interesting convergence of technology, healthcare, and behavioral science, offering new possibilities for understanding and improving human health and behavior.

Telemonitoring And Cognitive Training in Mild Cognitive Impairment

Giacomo Handjaras

Dementia affects millions of individuals, leading to rising financial burdens each year. Despite ongoing research, disease modifying treatments are still missing. In addition to pharmacological interventions, behavioral approaches such as cognitive and phy sical activities have yielded mixed evidence for slowing down the progression of dementia. One of these entails the application of computerized cognitive training (CCT).

The TACT project (Telemonitoring And Cognitive Training in mild cognitive impairment) seeks to investigate the potential positive impact of a 6 month CCT intervention on the trajectory of decline in individuals with mild cognitive impairment. Our goal is to overcome the current limitations of existing CCT interventions by providing a compr ehensive array of cognitive tasks and implementing an extended training period. Secondly, and of equal importance, TACT aims to establish a telemedicine protocol for real time monitoring of participants’ cognitive function and daily life activities. This protocol will also extend its focus to the psychological well being of caregivers, incorporating monthly monitoring of their mental health.

The web application, along with the questionnaires and exercises, will be made available as open source resources to the community. This approach aims to encourage reproducibility and promote the principles of open science.

The Impact of Communication Strategies on Blood Donors' Behavior: A Randomized Field Experiment

Francesco Serti

A reliable supply of human blood plays a vital role in the healthcare system. Italy's transfusional system relies on voluntary, uncompensated donations, making exploring non-monetary methods to motivate donors and mitigate blood shortages imperative. Proposed strategies include symbolic awards, social media recognition, and targeted communication tailored for distinct donor groups.

Thanks to an already-established collaboration between IMT and Associazione Volontari Italiani del Sangue (AVIS), Italy's foremost NGO dedicated to blood collection, this project focuses on investigating how donors react to different communication strategies. On the one hand, the project will apply microeconometric techniques to an extensive administrative database offered by AVIS to evaluate existing policies to incentivize donors. The database contains detailed information on donations and donor profiles at the individual level from the Tuscany region, spanning from 2008 to 2023. On the other hand, the effectiveness of different communication strategies will be tested with a field experiment. By observing how different messages influence subsequent donor behaviour, the project aims to provide evidence on designing more effective mechanisms for retaining blood donors.