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Opportunities and Challenges of Developing Information Technologies on Behavioral and Social Science Clinical Research

| Roster |

Background

The National Advisory Mental Health Council Workgroup on Behavioral and Social Science Research will review the opportunities and challenges of using new information technologies to study human behaviors relevant to the NIMH mission. The workgroup will begin by reviewing the existing NIMH clinical portfolio in behavioral and social sciences to identify areas in which NIMH is already using 21st century tools and to identify potential new opportunities. In the context of the 2015 Strategic Plan, the workgroup should look forward to what may be possible by 2025. Recent developments in technology allow us to track a range of behaviors in natural settings, including smart phone apps with passive, continuous, inexpensive monitoring as well as mHealth applications for online interventions. The Workgroup will address the following questions:

  • What technologies need to be developed to understand the life course and etiology of mental disorders in terms of their developmental trajectory, course, and epidemiology?  
  • How can these new technologies be used to predict and prevent mental illness?
  • How can these new technologies be used to achieve more efficient and effective diagnoses and treatments of mental illnesses?
  • How can these new technologies be used to improve quality in mental health practice?
  • How can these new technologies enable new questions to be asked, enable research to move more rapidly and to become more nimble?

Workgroup Charge

In pursing this charge, the working group should approach the question of how we can develop and use technology-driven information science at several levels of analysis, including the individual (cognition and behavior), social, and cultural contexts. A successful report will provide specific recommendations on the opportunities and challenges to exploit breakthroughs in information technology for fulfilling the goals of the 2015 NIMH Strategic Plan.

Report

The workgroup published a report (HTML version) summarizing workgroup discussions and recommendations. The report highlights advances in the field of digital health technology for the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illnesses, and provides a framework of how these technologies can enable more rapid and nimble research.