mDOT Center Receives $1.1M NIH Grant for AI Wearables

Dr. Santosh Kumar

April 11, 2024 — The National Institutes of Health recently awarded $1.1M to the mDOT Center at the University of Memphis to continue developing cutting-edge artificial intelligence for wearables with a goal of transforming health and wellness around the globe.

Established in 2020 at the MD2K Center of Excellence housed at the UofM, the mDOT Center is a national biomedical technology research center that serves as a national hub for collaborative research. The center operates as a consortium of six institutions, with Harvard, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Ohio State University, the University of California-Los Angeles and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst joining the University of Memphis as members.

The center is led by Dr. Santosh Kumar, director of the Center of Excellence for Mobile Sensor Data-to-Knowledge (MD2K) and Lillian and Morrie Moss Chair of Excellence Professor in Computer Science. The center works closely with up to two dozen grant-funded projects to jointly develop, test and deploy its novel wearables, apps, software, and research design tools to advance health research.

The NIH first awarded $5.9 million to the MD2K Center in the summer of 2020 to establish the mDOT Center. Since then, mDOT has grown substantially. At its annual meeting in 2023, the center established a roadmap for the technical research and development projects that will be the primary focus for the next five years.

The mDOT Center has recently turned its attention toward addressing an important health factor that often goes overlooked: Stress. According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 70% of individuals experience stress at a level that adversely impacts their physical or mental health.

Among many innovative wearable AI technologies developed by the mDOT Center is an app suite for smartwatches and smartphones called MOODS that people can use to track their stress and stressors. The MOODS apps were tested in a 100-day nationwide study and showed that with only two minutes of interaction per day, users increased their stress awareness and self-initiated 14 types of behavior changes, resulting in a 10% reduction in self-reported stress. The MOODS technology was licensed to CuesHub which has released a stress alert app for Samsung Galaxy smartwatches.

“We want to bring the transformative impact of the MOODS technology reported in research studies to all interested users,” said Kumar, the lead investigator of the mDOT Center. “If people are able to reduce their stress, it has the potential to slow or prevent chronic diseases, improve mental health, and boost work performance, helping save the country over $400 billion that are lost each year due to stress.”

Over 100 participants from across the country have used the app to track their daily stress and stressors for up to 170 days without any ongoing or end-of-study financial compensation. Results from the study show that using the app substantially increased the chances of catching study participants in stressful moments.

The mDOT Center invites new collaborators who are interested in using the smartwatch-based MOODS stress app for designing, deploying, or evaluating new app-guided mHealth interventions to improve health outcomes. Investigators with currently active grants and those interested in pursuing new grants are both welcome.

Together, we can develop the tools needed for individuals to take an active role in their mental health and well-being. If interested in exploring a collaboration, please email mdot@md2k.org.


Jennifer Godwin
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