Colloquium: Saeed Abdullah (Penn State University)


Time: Tuesday, May 8th, 1:15-2:30PM

Location: UTA 5.522 (1616 Guadalupe St., 5th Floor)

Title: Talking to Machines: Conversational Agents for Mental Health Care

Abstract: Conversational agents like Amazon Alexa and Siri enable a natural interaction with individuals. These agents can respond and converse directly with humans while using familiar emotional and social discourse dynamics. Indeed, recent studies show that people often engage with conversational agents as if they are human. These characteristics and capabilities make them particularly well-suited for providing mental health care. Specifically, conversational agents can be used for monitoring and therapeutic content delivery through frequent and dynamic interactions with patients. More importantly, these agents could closely emulate face-to-face clinical interactions leading to better therapeutic outcomes compared to web and mobile apps. In this presentation, I will overview the current capabilities and use of conversational agents in mental health care. I will also describe one of our new projects that uses Amazon Alexa to deliver interventions to patients with PTSD. I will conclude the presentation by identifying challenges that need to be addressed for successful integration of conversational agents in mental health care.

Bio: Saeed Abdullah is an assistant professor in the college of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) at Penn State. His research aims to develop novel data-driven technologies to improve health and well-being. His work has introduced assessment and intervention tools across a number of health related domains including sleep, cognitive performance, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. These systems leverage smartphone and wearable sensors to continuously collect granular behavioral and contextual data, which can lead to better clinical decision making and just-in-time interventions. His work also explores data-driven tools to sustain long-term user engagement and adherence in the context of mHealth. His research has been recognized through several accolades, including the $100,000 Heritage Open mHealth Challenge winner and an Agile Research Project award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


1:15pm to 2:30pm


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