AUSTIN, Texas — Electronic tattoos could be the next great frontier when it comes to diagnosing and treating both mental health problems and stress in this country.
Inside a lab the University of Texas in Austin, Nanshu Lu and her colleagues have spent the last decade developing state-of-the-art e-tattoos.
"We designed the tattoo so they are as stretchy as our skin," she explained. "Our body is radiating information from every inch of our skin.
The work being done here could have major implications for the way we diagnose and deal with both stress and mental health problems.
"For people with mental health issues or depression their skin conduits are different from healthy people," she said.
Those e-tattoos are placed strategically on a person’s palm. No other place on the body tells us more about our moods or stress.
"Our palm has the highest density of sweat glands which are controlled by sympathetic nerves, which are only excited when you have emotional swings," Lu added.
With the help of a small watch, Lu and her team are able to measure electrodermal activity in real time. More activity means our bodies are experiencing more stress.
The eventual hope is that someday these nearly invisible devices could gather data a healthcare provider could read to determine what may trigger a psychiatric issue or depression.
At the end of the day, Lu knows crossing this fine line of technological human evolution may scare some folks. But her hope is that these temporary tattoos can permanently change the ways we deal with stress.