As we near the end of a decade, Google has awarded $500,000 in funding to two Peruvian scientists to continue their quest to use artificial intelligence to diagnose autism, a method that would be affordable and accessible for underprivileged communities. The Google Research Awards for Latin America (LARA) aims to elevate world-class Latin American researchers in academia and their students by funding a selection of cutting-edge projects. This year, the Peruvian University Cayetano Heredia produced the seventh annual awards winners, esteemed researcher Mirko Zimic and his 27-year-old student Macarena Vittet.
The research duo was awarded $500,000 to fund another two years of research and development of a portable, non-invasive system to diagnose autism at an early age for low-income children.
Over the next two years, Mirko Zimic and Macarena Vittet will now be able to produce a product that will diagnose autism in just two minutes.
According to Andina, the award-winning research will eventually produce a portable system that will record eye movements while the child watches two videos. The eye movements are presumed to signify where the child’s attention is grabbed. The system will also analyze facial gestures to measure emotions. Combined, these measurements are meant to detect neurological abnormality in the child in less than two minutes, and without any highly specialized training.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be difficult to diagnose since there is no one medical test. Diagnosing ASD is a lengthy two-step process in the United States. A doctor might rely on parents’ assessment of their child’s behavior along with their own developmental screening. During the screening, the doctor would talk and play with the child and observe how they learn, speak, behave, and move. The second step is a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, which might include “a hearing and vision screening, genetic testing, neurological testing, and other medical testing,” according to the CDC. The evaluation is meant to be thorough and likely done by specialists like a Developmental Pediatrician, Child Neurologist or Child Psychologist.
Often, the kind of extensive, specialized screening processes to diagnose ASD is not available to low-income children.
It is a universal truth that affordable and fair access to healthcare is highly correlated with wealth. Wealthy, urban areas are often where specialized doctors congregate. For low-income families, the burden of travel expenses and the ability to take time off to transport their children to meet with an ASD specialist may be impossible. While facial recognition technology has become a controversial topic as governments across the globe begin to rely on the technology to monitor its citizens, these Peruvian scientists are putting the technology to good use.
The researchers’ next task is to standardize the algorithm that will be used to diagnose ASD. Treatment for any disease is almost always preceded with a diagnosis. Developing a tool that doesn’t require extensive education for the medical provider to use, or extensive time for the parent and child will allow for the most vulnerable populations to get the diagnoses they need to get help.
Google chose the autism diagnosis project as the winner out of 670 applications.
Vittet is currently working towards her Master’s degree in Public Health at University Cayetano Heredia but has been working in ASD diagnosis in children since 2017.Alongside research to aid in early diagnosis, Vittet wants to work to create public policy that supports parents of children with ASD.
“I also aim to work towards the development of measures and policies that can support both the parents of children with ASD and the children, themselves, leading them to have better performance and allowing them to integrate into society. I believe that research in this field is crucial especially in countries like Peru, where mental health, despite its drastic impact on society, is not yet a priority,” Vittet said on her LinkedIn page.
“Let’s hope that we can obtain a result that will fill a gap within a community that is not well-known in the country,” Vittet told Andina.
Nearly half of Google’s award recipients have focused their research on creating health tools.
Engineering Director of Google Latin America, Berthier Ribeiro-Nieto, told Andina that “Almost half of the projects awarded by Google use health technology tools. Alongside Zimic and Vittet’s award are 24 other winning projects of the Google LARA 2019. The country with the highest number of representative winners was Brazil, with 15 winning projects, followed by Colombia with five winning projects, Chile with two, and Peru with one winning project. “All these initiatives are aimed at solving various problems that affect people, such as skin cancer classification, automatic detection of Aedes aegypti breeding areas, pest detection, lung nodules detection and more,” Ribeiro-Neto told the outlet. Felicidades!
We don’t always think of mental illness like anxiety and depression as an exterior problem. Because it is so internal, we often think the signs of mental illness are easy to miss and as a result, should be covered up. Still, so many of us have experienced mental illness to the point of being incapable of dragging ourselves out of bed or heading out for plans with friends.
Women of Reddit are sharing how mental health has affected their work and professional lives.
Check them out below!
“I tend to self-isolate when I’m in a deeper depression. I don’t accept invitations to do things with friends. I’m chronically single, so there is no SO for it to affect.
Mostly throughout all my depressions, I’ve still been able to make it to work. That would be all I could do in a day. Get up, go to work. Come home and sleep. Most of the time I could keep up the facade at work of being a chatty outgoing person. When I’d have my bad days, I’d just let my coworkers know I wasn’t feeling well so I probably would be really quiet those days. They’d assume it was a cold or headache, but really it was my depression weighing me down. I would occasionally take mental health days off work, but those were only when I knew I wasn’t scheduled for much and it wouldn’t negatively affect my coworkers much. I’d never do it on a busy day or if I was scheduled in something that it would be difficult to replace me in.
At my current job, I don’t have to interact with others as much. I am in an office environment now (I worked in a lab before), but sit at my desk/cube with headphones on listening to podcasts while I do my work all day. I’ve had some bad depression days, but I still come into work and just count the hours down until I can go back home and crawl into bed. Bed in my happy place.”- MadtownMaven
“ I have tons of vacation time and it feels like weirdly I take “too many” mental health days however I guess former jobs made it hard for me to “call in sick” just because ‘depressed’.
I’ve lost friends over my isolation ways. And a partner. Yay.”- duckduck_goose
“That was exactly how I felt right before I decided I needed help. It got to the point where I couldn’t leave and just called the house to beg someone to bring me a drink or food. hugs That being said, sometimes you just got to do what makes you happiest. And if that is your bed, you probably picked a good cozy spot.”- ktwat
“I’m an aspie. In my first two relationships, I was taken advantage of, taken for granted and left out of my social activities due to the fact that my interaction with others was often seen as “steely” or “intimidating” (unintentionally though). I found it difficult to get my feelings across or that my partners had very little time for me in terms of discussing interactional problems or even just simple things like my past. I was cheated on in both of those relationships, probably regularly, because any social training I have didn’t include how to interact with a romantic partner. I think I’m getting the grips of it now though and in my third long-term relationship. It helps that I am completely head-over-heels in love with the guy but also, he treats me with respect, points out when i do something wrong or say something inappropriate and I feel like I’ve learned a lot more over the past year in my relationship with him that I have in the past 30 years from therapists or other people. I’ve stopped all forms of medication now, and stick to a fairly strict routine which keeps me ‘in check.’”- Gamerdomme
“You know how when someone has PTSD in a movie they start drinking a shit ton and possibly sleeping around and denying anything is wrong with them? Yeah, that was me, all day. I wasn’t really in denial that I was fucked up, but I maintained it would just go away on its own and I could “work through it”. Ha.
I actually didn’t experience too many issues in friendships, I think I was pretty self-aware of when I was dumping my problems on people, and I have a lot of friends, so when one person was getting overloaded I could go to someone else. I’m also a good listener myself, so when I was dumping on people I made it clear I would return the favor any time, which most took me up on at some point. Focusing on other people was a great break from my own problems. I was convinced telling my parents about my issues would make them “real”, though, and I was convinced I was letting them down by having problems, so I lied my face off to them.”- SpermJackalope
“When I was depressed I made the mistake of relying on my friends and partners as therapists rather than friends and partners, and some of those relationships imploded as a result. I feel really, really bad about it now, but at the time I wasn’t in the head space to think about what I was doing. It got better when I got an actual therapist.
I pulled away from a lot of people too. I didn’t want my parents to worry, so I never told them it was so bad I was suicidal. Talking to them was exhausting because I was at university and wanted them to believe the experience they were paying for was the most amazing of my life, when in reality I was sleeping 20-22hrs a day. Eventually I couldn’t keep it up anymore and broke down in the middle of a restaurant and told them I was really struggling. To their credit they instantly had me in to see doctors, they did all kinds of research, they became cheerleaders … What I had needed all along if I’d let them know. There was one rough patch where my dad threatened to have me committed but I think, looking back, that it came from a place of fear for him worrying he might actually have to hospitalize his daughter for her own good. I can’t imagine how hard that was for him.
I’m better now. I have friends and my family and an awesome SO. It took me almost two years after I got better to really relearn who I was apart from my depression but the people in my life have been really patient about it. They’re generally understanding when I feel like I’m backsliding but I’ve learned to cope better than dumping all my problems on them as well.”-snapkangaroo
“I have an anxiety/panic disorder and sometimes depression. It really affected my schoolwork back in 2009. I went on academic probation. I was afraid to leave my apartment. Etc etc. Then I started getting help. Three semesters later I made Dean’s List. My anxiety has been up and down since then, but I’ve never let it affect my work again.
A year ago on the 15th of February I broke up with my most recent ex-boyfriend because of it. I had been open and honest with him in a way I had avoided before because I was scared of the stigma. He seemed receptive and empathetic. Then one day I came home, complained about a panic attack, and he laughed at me. He called me ridiculous. All of a sudden I realized what a tremendous asshole he was and broke up with him.
It’s hard for me to know the line. Who can I talk to about this? Who can I trust? My mom, my best friend, and my sisters I can trust. Anybody else? I don’t know. When can/should I start talking to the person I’m dating about it? Will he laugh me out of the room? Will he pretend to care for months and then laugh me out of the room?
I’m doing really well right now. I haven’t had a panic attack in months. My anxiety has been at an all time low. I’m hoping this is actually me getting better rather than me having a good spell. But I don’t think so. It’ll come back. It always comes back. And that’s part of the disorder. Being so afraid of the panic that it causes me to avoid thing and panic about things and let it control me. If it does come back, I can beat it again. I have in the past, I can in the future.”- BagsOfMoney
“It’s really inspiring to hear how you hauled yourself back up! Have you had to have any of those conversations lately? How does it differ to talk to family vs. friends vs. romantic interests about it?”- ktwat
“I have severe anxiety and depression. This is not your normal “sometimes I feel sad” shit. Also, I’m a hypochondriac and neurotic. What I’ve seen is that people need a lot of patience for me. They need the ability to listen to me as I coach them through my anxiety attacks (“don’t touch me; okay now I need a hug; give me space; I need water” etc.) and they need the ability to distract me when I get into neurotic/hypochondriac fits of anxiety. When I’m depressed, they need to understand it’s not because of them. This is always tricky to convince someone of.”- giottoblue
“One of my boyfriends didn’t “believe” in mental illness, and decided that therefore I shouldn’t be taking my medication for anxiety/ADD because “I shouldn’t be dependent on a chemical” and “it was all in my head and I could just feel better if I wanted to.” That relationship did not last, and that was a big part of that. That’s a thing that does actually happen, and was pretty harmful for me (although that’s part of the larger scheme of that relationship which tended to be rather manipulative, which is a whole other can of worms. Feel free to pm me if you’ve got any questions about it though.)
My current boyfriend is very understanding and supportive of that, recognizes that sometimes I need my space and that sometimes there are things that won’t just immediately “get better” and he’s really great about wanting to see me happy and calm and if my life gets super stressful (which happens somewhat frequently as a grad student) he does whatever he can to make it better! But he might be extra great about it.
I haven’t ever had anybody ever ask to have some of my meds (some of them being controlled substances that people pay a lot for on the street) with any seriousness, but I usually include that in my opening spiel about the problem. I’ve also had some experiences where people are talking about getting them from a doctor when clearly they don’t have a real problem (like, “yeah I went to my doctor and told him I can’t concentrate and now he gave me meds to take during finals…” sort of like that. I don’t mean that I’m an expert in when people do/don’t have a mental disorder. This is kind of like people who clearly smoke a lot of pot saying they suddenly go to their doctor to get it when before they had no indication of a problem. I’m trying to word this well and it really isn’t working but I hope that makes sense). In those situations I tend to just not say anything because it’s not something I tell a lot of people.”-all_that_glitters_
“I’m now in recovery for an Eating Disorder and have had a massive battle with anxiety.
Personally I’ve been able to see who my real friends are. My ED took over my life slowly but surely and as I started on the slope a few friends just seemed to distance themselves and then stop talking to me. I’ve got a smaller group of friends now but I trust all of them and wouldn’t change a thing.
The other aspect that was affected personally was my relationship with my boyfriend, he stood by me every single moment and helped me through basically every single panic attack/purge etc. He was my rock, but it almost split us up. During recovery I made a stupid mistake as my self destructive part took over, however, we made it through. I think the hardest part for him was that he just couldn’t see my train thought, he didn’t understand how my skewed logic made so much sense to me. There are still knock ons from this time as my libido dropped during my ED and I still find it really hard to initiate any sort of sex. I still have a poor view of what I look like, which is worse when stressed, but we continue to work through it.
Professionally, ED and then recovery has ruined my job. My boss has been pretty unreasonable with some aspects of it and continues to stress me out. She also told me during recovery that I wasn’t ‘crazy crazy any more, just girl crazy’. Also, any time something is wrong with me she automatically assumes its an ED issue and asks if I’m eating. It’s horrible to be constantly probed over something that you are trying to overcome/move past.”-marty1411
“The stigma is terrifying to me. I can’t imagine any other time when people find it okay to berate someone over an illness. Your boss sounds like she is asking for an HR conversation. And what in the everloving fuck does “girl crazy” mean? Like “your invalid problems are even more invalid because they are female invalid problems”? Bullshit. Every element of it is valid whether someone chooses to acknowledge it or not. I am glad you have such great support, though. Your SO rocks! Tell him some random chick on the internet loves and respects his patience and strength.”-ktwat
“My eating disorder has affected every aspect of my life since I was 13. I am in recovery now, but for over a decade, I was in and out of inpatient/residential treatment centers.
Professionally and academically, this affected me because I had to leave school and work at very inopportune times. It took me 7 years to graduate college because I had to take 5 medical withdrawals. It was an embarrassing reason to leave, so I usually wouldn’t tell any of my friends. One day, I would just not show up and stop responding to texts. Then when I would return, I would say I was just sick. I told my close friends, but it wasn’t something I wanted to broadcast.
All of my relationships have ended because of my eating disorder, whether indirectly or directly. I remember a situation with an ex where he wouldn’t let me purge. I became a different person. I screamed, kicked, cried, bit, punched, and hit him because he wouldn’t let me go. I called him extremely hurtful names. I didn’t care about anything in that moment except getting to the bathroom to shove me fingers down my throat. Eventually, he gave up and let me go. I ran to the bathroom and threw up. When I came out of the bathroom, I was so embarrassed.
My boyfriends do not just date me; they also date my eating disorder. I went to Germany with an ex, and he ended up calling his mom asking her to get me an early plane ride home because he couldn’t handle my eating disorder. I didn’t experience the trip while I was there because I only cared about food. I ended up convincing him to stay, but our relationship was never the same. We broke up very soon after that. When I climbed the castle stairs in Germany, I only wondered how many calories I was burning. I didn’t care about the beauty of the castles or the country.
Therapy has affected me in an extremely positive way. I have learned amazing communication skills by being in therapy for 12 years. I know how to effectively relay my feelings in every situation. I learned that it’s okay for me to have needs and that they may not always be met. I would recommend therapy to anyone. It is not just something for “crazy people.” It can be beneficial for anyone.”- toritxtornado
“I have bipolar II and generalized anxiety disorder. I also am currently dealing with post-partum depression.
I am on medication, but I am not in therapy right now. I’m doing pretty well for the most part.
I have a lot of problems with controlling emotions in general. But anger is the most difficult. It has almost destroyed my relationship with my husband a few times over.
He used to have a difficult time understanding that my disorders were causing my erratic behavior. He didn’t understand why I could just be happy and calm like him. He even talked me into quitting all of my medication early in our relationship. It was awful and I was having a lot of awful problems for it.
These days, especially after the birth of our first child and the post-partum psychosis that followed (complete with hallucinations and paranoid delusions) put things into perspective for him. He understands now that my mind just isn’t working properly in regards to mood regulation and perception.
I have lost friends due to it, mostly because of my rage problems where I would tell them off in the most cruel, painful, and humiliating way possible if I felt slighted or insulted by them. I don’t do that anymore, thank god.
In the past, a lot of my medications killed my libido. Right now I am on a good medication combination, my libido feels fine, maybe slightly lower, but I don’t have the problems reaching orgasm that I did with other drugs.
It hasn’t really effected my work much since I manage my disorders well with meds.
It did become a problems during my second pregnancy. I tried quitting all of my medication and started having back to back panic attacks. At work. I remember a few times getting panicked and just blacking out and wandering around the town I work in. That stopped happening when my OBGYN put me on wellbutrin.
I used to see a psychiatrist for my medication. It was expensive and felt creepy because he would analyze my every thought and movement. I see a family doctor right now and he has done a better job of finding good drugs for me than any of the psychiatrists ever did.
But it’s definitely not something I can be open about. I just don’t bring it up unless I know someone very well.”- antisocialmedic
Oprah Winfrey might be the queen whose success so many of us aspire to, but like so many her life is one built from a road of trauma. Her latest book What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing speaks to these traumas and stressful experience and was written alongside child psychiatrist and neurologist Bruce D. Perry, MD, Ph.D.
In her most recent appearance on the Dr. Oz Show, Winfrey revealed that part of her trauma which she touches on in the book, includes the abuse she experienced from both her parents and grandparents.
Speaking about her experience with child domestic and physical abuse, Winfrey revealed that one beating from her grandmother left her bloody while in her church dress.
“One of the welts on my back opened up and bloodied the dress,” she revealed through tears. She went onto recall a time in her life when she woke up while in bed with her grandmother to find her grandfather strangling his wife.
“My grandmother and I slept in the bed together. My grandfather was in a room on the other side of the wall and one night in the middle of the night, my grandfather gets out of bed and comes into the room,” Winfrey explained. “And I wake up and he has his hands around my grandmother’s neck and she is screaming.”
Winfrey shared that after her grandmother managed to push her grandfather away, they both slept in the room after that her grandmother put a chair underneath their bedroom’s doorknob with tin cans around the chair. “And that is how we slept every night. I’m sleeping, I always slept with, listening for the cans,” she explained. “Listening for what happens if that doorknob moves.”
In her new book, Winfrey revealed that after her grandmother died, she moved from Mississippi to Milwaukee to live with her mother.
There, she was forced to sleep on the front porch of the house where her mother resided. “The night I arrived in Milwaukee, the woman my mother was boarding with, Ms. Miller, took one look at me and said, ‘She’ll have to sleep on the porch,'” Winfrey recalled in her book. “My mother said, ‘All right.’ As I watched my mother close the house door to go to the bed where I thought I’d sleep, I was consumed with a terrified sense of loneliness that brought me to tears.”
Winfrey went onto recall that the incident with the bloody dress happened after her grandmother caught her playing with water.
Speaking to Dr. Oz, she recalled how as a little girl she had been carrying a bucket of water to bring back home. “As I was bringing the water back, I was, like, playing with the water with my fingers like that in the water and my grandmother was looking out the window,” Winfrey recalled. “And when I brought the bucket in and I’m sloshing the bucket cause I’m a little girl, and she’s like “Were you playing in the water? Did you have your fingers in that water? That’s our drinking water.”
Winfrey’s latest book isn’t totally autobiographical, chapters dive into the connection between trauma and well-being, and Dr. Perry insight into who to handle traumatic experiences from their childhood. “The journey from traumatized to typical to resilient helps create a unique strength and perspective,” Dr. Perry write in the book. “That journey can create post-traumatic wisdom.”