Developing Novel Methods of Data Capture in Epidemiological Studies

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol

Abstract

The growth in the availability of various technologies (e.g., smartphones) means that we are now able to collect a wide range of data that until recently were extremely labour intensive to collect, and could only be collected in clinic settings. The programme will focus on developing new methods for utilising these technologies to allow to collection of data in epidemiological studies, without the constraint of requiring participants to attend clinics in person. This can be done either actively or passively (i.e., with or without the input of the participant). For example, activity levels and location can in principle be extracted passively from data collected by most current smartphones, while mood data can be collected via short questionnaires delivered via smartphone. This work will enhance the quality and quantity of data that we can routinely collect in our research.

Technical Summary

As internet, smartphone, tablet computer and sensor technologies develop, it is becoming increasingly possible to collect detailed behavioural data through active and passive means using these technologies. This has the potential to dramatically increase the quality and reach of data collected in epidemiological studies and clinical trials. In particular, it enables the collection of data in naturalistic settings, including the home environment, which should in principle increase the validity of the data collected compared with clinic assessments. We aim to develop accurate and efficient tools for measurement of variables from molecules to lifestyles. A key component of this work will be the advancement of novel methods, such as remote sensing, digital data harvesting, biosensing and biomarkers of behaviours. We will work in areas that reflect expertise across the University of Bristol, such as diet and nutrition, smoking and cardiometabolic biomarkers and will also collaborate closely with other MRC units/centres and international groups as relevant, and to avoid inefficiency and duplication. Such data collection will be linked to the extensive series of ongoing national and international cohort studies and randomised controlled trials with which we have existing links. The primary aim of this work is to deliver research capability which can be piloted and implemented across the research programmes within the Unit, and then used in future data collection sweeps in ongoing cohort studies and associated sub-studies. The platforms we develop for data capture will also be tested for the potential value in delivering interventions (e.g., behaviour change).

Publications

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Attwood AS (2017) State anxiety and emotional face recognition in healthy volunteers. in Royal Society open science

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Eastwood AP (2020) Effects of acute alcohol consumption on emotion recognition in high and low trait aggressive drinkers. in Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England)

 
Title Animation for Integrative Nutritional Research 
Description This is a 3 minute animation explaining how new technologies and techniques, including use of wearable devices like smartwatches, have the potential to transform the way we study how and what we eat and drink, and how this affects our health. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The animation was used in an event in December 2018 organised by the ESRC's CLOSER exploring the future challenges for longitudinal and cohort studies to illustrate the potential of using new technologies for capturing health related data. It has also been used in undergraduate teaching, helping medics understand the potential of using new technology to study various aspects of health outside of clinical settings. 
URL https://youtu.be/1LWxVGTfiJA
 
Description CLOSER Innovation Award
Amount £12,306 (GBP)
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2016 
End 05/2016
 
Description Flexible Talent Mobility Award
Amount £17,675 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 06/2018
 
Description GW4 Initiator Fund
Amount £19,680 (GBP)
Organisation GW4 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2016 
End 12/2016
 
Description UKRI/HDRUK Innovation Fellowship
Amount £397,650 (GBP)
Funding ID MR/S003894/1 
Organisation Medical Research Council (MRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2018 
End 02/2021
 
Description Collaboration with Folium Optics Ltd 
Organisation Folium Optics Lmited
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Folium worked with us as a collaborator on a MRC PHIND grant application, which was recently awarded to PI Angela Attwood.
Collaborator Contribution The grant explores new approaches to health warnings for alcohol. Folium bring expertise in novel thin film plastic display technologies, and will produce prototype dynamic health warnings for the project.
Impact MRC PHIND Grant 'Developing alcohol labelling interventions: the "what", "who" and "how"' awarded to Angela Attwood (PI), Andy Skinner (Co-I), et al.
Start Year 2014
 
Title Method and Device for Detecting a Smoking Gesture 
Description The application covers a system for automatic detection of cigarette smoking using a wearable device. The system uses data from the motion sensors in a smartwatch to detect the signature hand movements associated with cigarette smoking. Unlike other systems of this kind, it does not require additional sensors, pairing with a smartphone, or a data network connection - it runs entirely on the smartwatch. The system can be used to obtain detailed measurements of patterns of smoking behaviour in free-living conditions, and can be used to develop precision behaviour change interventions targeting cigarette smoking. 
IP Reference WO2017129946 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2016
Licensed No
Impact The system is planned to be used in a number of studies to be run by the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit. Discussions are also ongoing around the use of the system in other academic health research teams (e.g. Philip R. Lee Institute of Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco), and options for commercialisation of the system.
 
Title N-back app for schools and colleges 
Description We have developed a research grade n-back cognitive testing app for use in education. N-back is one of the core set of cognitive testing tasks used in psychology research. Many versions of the task are available as apps, but none of these offer the complete set of features needed to conduct and analyse research to a professional standard. Our app provides all of these features, including the ability to; select item only or item+position, specify item type, configure feedback, and export results. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact The app has just launched, but following promotional and public engagement activities we anticipate considerable interest across a range of secondary, sixth form and undergraduate teaching establishments. 
 
Title StopWatch: a smartwatch-based system for passive detection of cigarette smoking 
Description We have developed StopWatch, a system for passive, automatic detection of cigarette smoking. The system uses data from the motion sensors in a low-cost smartwatch to detect the signature hand movements associated with cigarette smoking. Unlike other systems of this kind, it does not require additional sensors, pairing with a smartphone, or a data network connection - it runs entirely on the smartwatch. The system can be used to obtain detailed measurements of patterns of smoking behaviour in free-living conditions, and can be used to develop precision behaviour change interventions targeting cigarette smoking. 
Type Of Technology Detection Devices 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact We have just completed system testing, and are now seeking follow-on funding to support use of the system in development of a behaviour change intervention targetting smoking relapse. Relapse to smoking remains an unmet need - existing smoking interventions support initial cessation, but many ex-smokers relapse to smoking after treatment ends. In the UK for example, of the approximately 5 million smokers that attempt to quit each year, less than 20% are successful in remaining smoke-free. A modest improvement on this will have a significant impact on public health, as smoking remains the leading preventable cause of disease and premature death in developed countries, with half of all people that smoke cigarettes dying prematurely as a result. 
URL https://osf.io/mnyyy/
 
Description CLOSER workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We hosted a workshop for members of CLOSER (the organisation promoting excellence in longitudinal research) exploring the opportunities new technologies are providing for capturing health related data in longitudinal cohort studies. The output from the workshop was compiled into a CLOSER Resource Report which is now available to all members of the scientific community represented by CLOSER.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.closer.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/New-technology-and-novel-methods-for-capturing-health-re...
 
Description Cognitive testing app featured on Channel 4's Health Detective 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An app developed by the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit's technology spin-out Jericoe was featured on an episode of Channel 4's Health Detectives. The app allows school and college students to test working memory - an important part of memory function that is affected in many diseases and by taking many drugs. Unlike other apps of this kind currently available, this is research grade, and gives students access to features usually only found in university and industry laboratories.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/n-back-by-jlab/id1092479753?mt=8.
 
Description Create, Debate, Explore Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was the first of a new type of engagement event in which researchers from the MRC's Integrative Epidemiology Unit (IEU) met with members of the public to discuss and explore research ideas though working with a local artist. The topic for this initial session was smoking, and how technologies and techniques could help people stop smoking. The session captured very helpful discussions that fed back into the work of the IEU, and helped the IEU public engagement team shape and refine future events of this kind.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Data Capture Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact The workshop was attended by representatives from across the MRC IEU, the EPSRC SPHERE project and other research groups based at the University of Bristol. It raised awareness of the IEU Data Capture Theme and stimulated discussion about new opportunities and collaborations.

The workshop specifically identified a number of possible collaborations between the IEU and SPHERE project, mainly around health behaviour studies that could be run in the SPHERE house living lab.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Effect of alcohol on cognition app for Greeman festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We developed an Android app that illustrates the effect of alcohol on visual perception. The app was one of a number of health behaviour based public engagement activities at the IEU's Bar to the Future stall at the Green Man festival in 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.greenman.net/news/einsteins-garden-science-stall-line-up/
 
Description Talk at Gordano School - using technology to monitor and modify health behaviours 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Approx 20-30 pupils and staff attended. After the talk, pupils were asking questions about use of technology for capturing data and ethical considerations, and more general questions about research in universities.

Teachers reported high levels of interest from pupils. The end of Science Week reveiw and talk prepared by the pupils focused largely on the health behaviours issues we covered in my session.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014