New technologies for studying human behaviour

We use new technologies to measure behaviour and environmental context, mainly for eating and moving, mainly to study obesity in children. However, we are also interested in other patient groups, in order to improve their quality-of-life and intervention outcomes (e.g. in Parkinson’s disease).

Research in this Area focuses on quantification and modelling of eating and physical activity behaviours, measured through novel technologies at home and real-life environments. This goal is supported by our experience in clinical research, in the fields of eating disorders and obesity, combined with behavioural science and translational research for health-related technologies. Our efforts have mainly been part of our involvement in three interdisciplinary, international EU projects:

These involvements have allowed us to build a widespread network of collaboration with research engineer teams across Europe.

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Food retailer landscape in Stockholm using the BIGO platform.

Our current efforts are focused on the development and the deployment of ICT-based methodologies in real-life and clinical environments with focus on: a) prevention of obesity in children and adolescents (SPLENDID & BIGO projects) and b) early behavioural diagnostics and quality of life improvements in the elderly (against Parkinson’s Disorder: iPrognosis project).

A significant segment of our current work focuses on school-based data collection using smartwatches and smartphones, in order to identify obesogenic behaviours in student populations. Additionally, we are working towards measuring and evaluating environmental context from the wider school areas, in order to study their association with the observed measurements. Finally, we are exploring the potential of using such methodologies in other domains, measuring and evaluating eating behaviour in clinical/laboratory and real-life settings.

The UNIFOOD project

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The UNIFOOD project.

The food environment affects our food choices, and our food choices affects our risk to develop overweight and obesity. This project aims to investigate in what areas children in a small and a large city in Sweden are exposed to outdoor advertising for food.

With a smartphone application (app), specifically developed for the current project, children themselves will photograph outdoor food advertisements that they are exposed to. When the children take photos with the app, GPS-locations are recorded and can be used to identify “hotspot areas” where children often are exposed to food advertisements. The socioeconomic status of the areas where the children live will also be associated with their exposure to food advertisements. The children’s own experience of their food advertisement exposure as well as their thoughts and reflections related to how their food environment can be improved to facilitate more healthy dietary habits, will also be explored in focus groups.

The study is conducted in collaboration with UNICEF Sweden and Hjärt- och lungfonden. The development of the app is done by Professor Anastasios Delopoulos and his research team at Multimedia Understanding Research Group (Electrical Engineering Department, Aristoteles University of Thessaloniki, Greece). The project has been approved by the ethical review authority in Sweden.

Content reviewer:
Sara Bruce