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Tapping emotions with electronic tattoos

An electromyography involves recording electrical signals through the skin. This involves the application of a cold, sticky gel to the skin. The application of the chilled gel is necessary to enable electrical conductivity. The test used as a diagnostics tool for identifying neuromuscular diseases, or as a research tool for studying kinesiology (the science of human body movement), and disorders of motor control. Recently Dr. Alex Jimenez (@crossfitdoctor) warned on Twitter: “EMG (Electromyography) Not completely accurate and can sometimes give false results.”

A new advancement has been presented from Tel Aviv University. This is a type of skin electrode, where the flat structure resembles a temporary skin tattoo. The advantage, as well as being more pleasant for the patient, is that is allows patients to go about their daily routines unhindered.

The new skin patch contains a tiny carbon electrode embedded within an adhesive surface, and it collects data relating to muscle condition, and data can be stored for several hours. The device is protected by a conductive polymer coating.

The device was created by advanced bio-printing machines, where the most important step is replicating the topography at the nanoscale. Trials have been undertaken to assess the muscle activity of patients who are suffering with neurodegenerative diseases.

Aside from the collection of physiological data, the electronic tattoo has a related area of scientific interest: the mapping of emotions. This is in terms of correlating muscle reactions to different sensations.

With this there is a non-health application. Delving deep into how a person responds to a product could be of interest to those in advertising and marketing. At present, much of the information collected about a new product is based on subjective questionnaires or by using photographs to assess facial reactions.

Another potential application is to assess the alertness of drivers on the road to chart the progress of people recovering from injuries, such as stroke rehabilitation. The device could also be used in conjunction with artificial limbs.

The device was invented by Professor Yael Hanein of the Tel Aviv University Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. Tweeting about the news, The Jerusalem Post (@Jerusalem_Post) stated: “TAU electromyographic ‘tattoo’ could let pollsters and media experts poll human emotions.”

The findings have yet to be reported to a peer review paper, although they have been presented at a major international nanomedicine workshop held in Israel during June 2016.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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