ADAPT Radio’s HumanAIse series continues this month with a discussion on AI & Mental Health with Dr. Claire Gillan and Prof. Marcus Collier.
Our health is one of our greatest assets, and it has many interconnected parts, including our mental health and the environment in which we live. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can enable us to engage more with our mental health and environment, as well as help researchers better understand how to protect both. Joining this month’s podcast is ADAPT Academic and Associate Professor at Trinity College Dublin, Dr. Claire Gillan, whose lab is developing new approaches to studying brain health, and ADAPT PI Prof. Marcus Collier (Associate Professor of Sustainability Science in the School of Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin) whose research explores the complex interface between social and ecological systems in informal wild spaces in cities.
Dr. Gillan and Prof. Collier are both utilising AI to empower people to protect their health and wellbeing and are harnessing the power of citizen science to do so. In 2020, Dr Gillan’s lab launched the Neureka project, a smartphone app developed with support from the ADAPT centre that now has over 10,000 registered citizen science users all contributing to an understanding of how the brain works. This app allows the team to take experiments out of the lab and into people’s homes to increase the amount of people participating in the research as well as studying people in their natural environments.
The Neureka app requires users to play highly gamified cognitive tests that convey information to the lab regarding how your brain is reacting. The app utilises AI and specifically machine learning as the brain is a very complex organ and it can be difficult to provide the correct care model. By leveraging AI, the lab is able to collect large samples via citizen science and have the machines assist with possible issues by identifying patterns in the data. While Dr Gillan’s lab do not develop specific interventions they remain interested in the ongoing mental health crisis across the globe and the issues faced by many people such as not enough trained and affordable psychotherapists available. Prof. Gillan in particular highlighted the importance of establishing effective low cost scalable forms of psychological therapy during the podcast. Apps, like Neureka, can provide assistance for those with lower intensity symptoms.
During the podcast, Prof. Collier also provided an understanding into his project NovelEco. This is a citizen science project that measures societal attitudes towards urban wild spaces by working with citizens to study them and generate data on urban ecosystems. Prof Collier gives the example of plants growing from walls or at the sides of roads in cities or towns as urban wild spaces. He also highlighted the importance of these urban wild spaces as a way for those who live entirely in urban areas, or below the poverty line and thus unable to afford to go into the natural environment, as a way to engage with nature. In particular, Prof. Colliers team are focussed on non-marginalised communities and migrants who would have different perceptions and expectations of their urban environment. AI becomes useful in this respect by enlisting it to distil some of the nuances that the team are not able to gather on a daily basis with their citizen scientists. Finally, drawing the podcast to a close both Dr Gillan and Prof. Collier discusses how their research overlaps and possible collaborative efforts that could take place in the future.