UMass Amherst gets $1.3M NIH grant to create center using wearable tech to studying sleep, chronic illness

By Heather Mack

The National Institutes of Health has awarded the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s nursing school a $1.23 million grant to create a center dedicated to the development of technologies to help people manage fatigue and sleep impairment due to chronic illnesses.

The five year grant, awarded to UMass’s College of Nursing, will facilitate studies involving wearable and handheld devices, with the aim of helping patients decide when and how to modify their activities. The studies will take place at the campus’s UManage Center to Build the Science of Symptom Self-Management.

Cynthia Jacelon, professor of nursing and director of the UManage Center, said the goal of the center is to give people with chronic illness the ability to have more functional, healthier lives through better management of their symptoms.

“Nurse-led interdisciplinary teams will use emerging technologies being developed on the UMass Amherst campus to help manage symptoms affecting millions of individuals with chronic conditions that interfere with living life to the fullest,” Jacelon said in a statement, adding that new wearable or handheld technologies “will help them stop and rest or change their sleep hygiene before it’s too late.”

The team includes nurse researchers, sleep experts, computer science big data specialists and health informatics and engineering psychology researchers, and they will also collaborate with industry partners.

The UManage Center will fund 10 pilot research studies over the next five years. Among the first research projects will be the development of wearable eye-tracking technology to help cancer survivors monitor and self-manage persistent fatigue, and a study of sweat cortisol levels (a potential stress and fatigue indicator) that could equip patients with tools to manage their behavior and reactions.