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September 20, 2018

SUNY Oswego faculty-student team producing stress-reduction app


OSWEGO — Dr. Karen Wolford of SUNY Oswego’s psychology department recently won a $50,000 National Science Foundation I-Corps grant to assist development of a mobile app to help people with anxiety disorders.

Karen Wolford (left) of the SUNY Oswego psychology department and graduate student Arthur Delsing talk about the stress-reducing mobile app they are helping develop with the assistance of a National Science Foundation I-Corps grant. They hope to market the app to therapists and their clients for interactive help dealing with anxiety.

Karen Wolford (left) of the SUNY Oswego psychology department and graduate student Arthur Delsing talk about the stress-reducing mobile app they are helping develop with the assistance of a National Science Foundation I-Corps grant. They hope to market the app to therapists and their clients for interactive help dealing with anxiety.

First offered in 2011, I-Corps grants seek to help entrepreneurs — such as human-computer interaction graduate student Arthur Delsing, a former student and now a colleague of Wolford’s — bring technological innovations such as the stress-reduction app to market.

“This has really offered a unique opportunity for us,” Wolford said. “The I-Corps grant application process moves quickly — ours was 45 days to approval.”

Three years ago, Delsing was in the first group of undergraduate military veterans to train in trauma research in a program at SUNY Oswego. Wolford and former Oswego psychology department faculty member Dr. Brooks Gump, now a professor of public health at Syracuse University, received a $226,000 NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates grant to establish the training program.

Delsing, a Navy veteran dealing with chronic pain from a non-combat injury during service at Norfolk, participated in the program. Last year, he earned his undergraduate degree in psychology with a minor in business from SUNY Oswego. He suggested an alternative to the program’s current online delivery method, which is the college’s learning management system.

“That first year, when we had talked about the training going online, I had suggested the idea of the app,” Delsing said. “But at that time, the grant we had did not offer funding for it.”

Meditation and more

The new grant, titled “Self-Adherence and Self-Motivated Training for Dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress: A Smartphone Solution,” will assist the design of a mobile app to provide veterans — or anyone suffering from anxiety — feedback and encouragement for taking affirmative steps to reduce stress.

Developed around mindfulness-based stress-reduction research — using meditation to create a present-centered awareness to help anxiety sufferers stay focused and calm — the app will benefit from the expertise of Wolford, Gump and SU’s Dr. Dessa Bergen-Cico.

Additionally, the I-Corps grant requires mentorship by established business people, and SUNY Oswego alumnus and software developer Dan Bernard, creative director of Stovepipe Interactive in Chicago, will help fill that role.

Business guidance also has come from Pamela Caraccioli, deputy to the president for external partnerships and economic development.

“The President’s Office is assisting Arthur with making introductions to regional economic development experts,” Caraccioli said. “President Stanley supports business and research activity through our faculty. We are simply trying to help him identify next steps.”

Delsing said he is in the process of forming a limited liability company (LLC), and plans to have a partial working model of the app by mid-October. After testing the model for usability, he said, a deployable app should be ready by mid-December. The plan is to offer the app as a free download. The first week of the four-week program also would be free, with additional weeks available for purchase.

There is competition in this arena, Wolford and Delsing said. For example, the Veterans Administration has released its own app utilizing mindfulness-based stress reduction. The key to attracting therapists and their clients will be individualization designed to help users stick with the program.

“There are extras that we hope will make our app more effective,” Wolford said. “We are taking a proven cognitive training method and making it individualized.”

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