There are plenty of apps in the Apple Store and the Android Marketplace that try to help patients quit smoking. Some of them even have integration with social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter. However, these same genre of apps are helping researchers study addition in a new way.
SmartPlanet has a great interview with Dr. David Wetter, who is leading a team of researchers using real-time smart phone data from those trying to quit smoking in order to better understand addiction.
These M.D. Anderson Cancer Center researchers are finding some interesting trends in the data they are collecting.
We use smart phones to collect data during critical events that happen when people try to quit. For example, when they have a craving to smoke or when they actually smoke a cigarette, we’ll collect data. [We’ll find out]: Who else is in the environment with them? What else is going on? Are cigarettes available? Are they drinking? Are they eating? Are they at work, at home, in the car?
The smart phone will also beep at random times throughout the day and evening to collect the same kinds of information. We can compare that information across different situations. For example, when someone is craving we may find that they’re in situation characterized by negative emotions, like anxiety and stress, much more so than when you beep them at random times.
From the data collected so far, Dr. Wetter’s group has found that volatility of emotions and intensity of cravings is predictive of relapse. People who have a roller coaster of emotions – volatility – are at a much higher risk of relapse. He credits these findings to the ability of collecting real time data via smart phones.