Creative Research Medal
Gregory Strauss, associate professor of psychology, utilized a new assessment technique called “digital phenotyping” to characterize and improve treatment of anhedonia, a symptom of schizophrenia. Scientists have long believed that anhedonia is an incapacity to experience pleasure. Strauss and his team tested that assumption by having study participants carry smartphones and other devices fitted with sensors that record physiological and other responses to events. Participants recorded videos of their facial and vocal emotions and responded to daily surveys. Strauss and his team pioneered complex algorithms for analyzing this data to understand how participants reacted when exposed to potentially enjoyable activities and how their pleasure persisted over time. Results show that participants do experience pleasure. However, they have difficulty anticipating pleasure, and their pleasurable experiences degrade rapidly. Pharmaceutical companies are adopting these technologies in psychiatric trials, and the tools could provide better ways to identify and assess features of this disease.