An accurate tool developed by a team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Africa and South Asia has been developed and tested for detecting warning signals indicative of psychological distress. The results of the research aimed to determine whether the tool can also detect visual disturbances related to the common stressor known as anxiety.
All humans are vulnerable to mental distress. However little is known about the minimally conscious processes that allow people to experience emotional distress. For example the brain has these mechanisms into which it sends a signal signaling when a person is experiencing stress or anxiety. Such a signal may include a movement of their hands face mouth or eyes. Yet such a signal may also be a lack of blood flow to the face mouth or eyes which could indicate a disorder. As some signs can precede a physical distress such as mild skin diseases or allergic reactions screening and implementing effective screening tools is important to detect such disorders.
A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Africa and South Asia has developed and tested a tool called Effect of Distress Detection Signal on Skin Vulnerability Assessment Scale. The tool analyzes the visual features of humans and predicts the emotions associated with such expressions. Although purely theoretical the tool conjures up the psychological distress associated with the physiological symptom of stress such as a persistent sore or raised forehead headaches fatigue or pain in the neck as during a physical stress. To interpret the results researchers examined the mental state of subjects during an in-depth psychological assessment and did not find evidence of psychometric bias or self-selection bias in the tool. At present this research does not offer any tip for better screening tools and non-invasive assessment in real-world situations.
To overcome this randomness the researchers performed multiple fMRI scans on young and older adults of our African-American ethnicity. They met the participants beforehand over a two-week period at which point the participants were invited to have an fMRI scan. During the scan a series of items was presented which included face expressions hand and facial movements of the participants as well as self-reported anxiety. Human ratings of anxiety and stress were recorded. Anxiety and stress in the center and distal hemispheres of the participants visual brain network measurement cortex were measured. They were then used to generate estimates of anxiety and facial pain caused by stress.
Study results show that this tool outperformed the traditional screen-based psychological stress test of the traditional psychological stress test. In addition the researchers were able to predict the visual effects of stress in 24 normal subjects using the diagnostic approach of the fit-response task. In line with previous studies on these subjects with higher performance standard anxiety assessment tools the results were positive for both overt and covert pain stimuli.
The researchers believe that this tool can be next-generation boosting its usability for detecting acute psychological distress associated with the common stressor of mental distress like anxiety in more complex contexts.