THE VA MOBILE MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES TEAM IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEVELOPMENT AND DISSEMINATION OF EVIDENCE-INFORMED MOBILE APPS TO IMPROVE THE MENTAL HEALTH OF VETERANS AND THEIR LOVED ONES ACROSS THE U.S. IMPROVING REAL-WORLD SLEEP MEASUREMENT TO EMPOWER EFFECTIVE INTERVENTIONS FOR PTSD-RELATED INSOMNIA IS A LONG-TERM AIM. 

BACKGROUND Information

  • Sleep is a key component of PTSD treatment, insomnia in particular.

  • Objective measures of treatment effectiveness are needed to guide treatment, and encourage patient compliance.

  • The VA Mobile Mental Health services team manages three of the most widely used mental health apps on the app store : PTSD Coach, CBT-I Coach, and PTSD Family Coach. 

THE PROJECT

The goal of this project would be to incorporate a serial reaction time task, modeled on the Psychomotor Vigilance Task, into the mobile app CBT-I Coach.

CBT-I Coach was designed to support and optimize the delivery of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, a well-validated and durable treatment supported by multiple meta-analyses. Like any medical or psychological treatment, the outcome of CBT-I is dependent on patient adherence. Also like many medical or psychological treatments, the benefits of CBT-I are not always immediately apparent. In fact, insomnia patients undergoing CBT-I can feel worse before they sleep better, due to the impacts of the sleep restriction component.

An integrated serial reaction time assessment component would provide three benefits. First, it would provide a game-like component through which users could track their performance over time on the vigilance dependent reaction time task. (The PVT is the “industry standard” brief index of sleep-loss-impacted cognition and has been used in 100’s of studies.) Gamification, particularly with a real-world referent (vigilance), is expected to enhance and prolong app usage and engagement with the treatment program. Second, a serial reaction time task could provide actionable feedback to a patient who, early in treatment and perhaps severely impacted (temporarily) by the sleep restriction component of CBT-I, to make better-informed decisions about the operation of vehicles and the like. Third, a serial reaction time task could reduce the threshold to treatment re-entry in cases where a new challenge to sleep function emerges and a refreshment of CBT-I strategies is warranted.

It is highly likely that work products of this project will be incorporated into both research and clinical applications in the near future. Studies involving CBT-I are ongoing in our group and future studies are envisioned.

Technical Skills

We are looking for student with experience in or willingness to learn the following:

  • iOS development experience; Android development experience is a plus. 

  • Game design and graphic design