Major new study aims to increase understanding of fatigue

Major new study aims to increase understanding of fatigue

Innovative research using AI led by the University of Aberdeen aims to find better ways of managing and treating fatigue.

Many people struggle with fatigue which can be the result of medical conditions like long covid, stress or simply because of modern lifestyle. This makes it difficult for doctors to understand whether patients are tired as part of every-day life or whether fatigue may be a symptom of a more serious medical condition.

Researchers are now working with men and women who have fatigue related to long covid, myeloma (a type of cancer), heart failure, and people who do not suffer from one of those conditions and do not experience problematic fatigue in the study which will look in depth at fatigue patterns in different people.

The study, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), involves experts from a range of disciplines spanning Clinical Medicine/Primary Care, Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Wearable Technology, Psychology, Human-computer Interaction, and Clinical Trials.

Those taking part will be required to wear a sensor on their wrist, a bit like a watch but without a screen, which will measure their activity levels, posture and sleep. They will also be given movement sensors to keep in their home and an ECG patch to be worn during the first seven days of the study.

Senior clinical lecturer in Academic Primary Care and lead researcher Dr Rosalind Adam explains: “Most of us experience tiredness from time to time, caused by things like not getting enough sleep or feeling stressed, but it can also be a symptom of a wide range of medical conditions. 

“It can be difficult for doctors to tell when problematic fatigue is typical of normal tiredness because of lifestyle or if there is an underlying  medical condition. Blood tests are not always helpful.

“What is exciting about this study is that it combines experts from six different universities with backgrounds in Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Human-Computing Interaction, Psychology, and Clinical (general practice). The sensors are novel too and will allow us to study fatigue patterns in different people in detail.

“Treatment options for fatigue are limited. We hope this study will help us understand fatigue better and will identify patterns of fatigue in different people. We hope that this will help us find better ways of managing and treating fatigue in the future.  

“We are working with volunteers with heart failure, long COVID, and myeloma who are experiencing problematic fatigue. We are also working with people who have not had any of those conditions and do not have problematic fatigue.” 

The study started in January and around forty participants will take part.

For more information about the study email fatiguestudy@abdn.ac.uk

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