Raymond Walker, BA

Research Assistant, Center for Technology and Behavioral Health

Raymond Walker is a Research Assistant at the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health at the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center. He currently works on the mhealth for mental health program led by Dr. Dror Ben-Zeev which focuses on advancing the study, assessment and treatment of individuals with severe mental illness using mobile technologies.

Ray earned a BA in Psychology from Rivier University and graduated Magna Cum Laude. He was one of ten students from Rivier University selected to the “Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges.” He was also a member of The International Honor Society in Psychology (PSI CHI).

In his free time, Ray enjoys participating in various outdoor activities, especially hiking, surfing, and fishing.

 


Nidhi Badiyani, MPH

Project Coordinator, Center for Technology and Behavioral Health

mHealth for Mental Health; SMI; Schizophrenia

Nidhi is a Project Coordinator for the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health at the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center at Dartmouth College.

Nidhi works on mobile health (mhealth) interventions for mental health program under the direction of Dr. Dror Ben-Zeev. She holds a Masters degree in Global Health from Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University & a Bachelor's in Dentistry from India. Through her research work on partner violence while studying at Emory, she developed a strong interest supporting human rights initiatives and working with vulnerable populations.

Nidhi grew up in Mumbai, India. She has worked in India as a clinical assistant at various clinics and hospitals. Nidhi is passionate about research and has over five years of experience working in healthcare throughout the United States and India.

In her free time she enjoys painting, listening to music and travelling.


Extractor: A Research Tool for Combining Facebook User Data and Web Surveys

Funding Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Funding Period: 2015 – 2016

Principal Investigator: Benjamin S. Crosier, PhD

Other Project Staff: Lisa A. Marsch, PhD; Fort Point Design; Michal Kosinski

Project Summary: 

Facebook constitutes one of the most socially rich semi-structured datasets available. Although much research is being done with Facebook data, the required technical skills for data extraction and manipulation usually fall outside of the wheelhouse of a majority of social scientists. Multiple basic survey data collection tools are available to researchers that allow them to draw questionnaire data from Facebook users, but gaining access to profile information is more difficult. Much can be gained from combining both capabilities. By linking user data to survey responses, social scientists across disciplines will be able to pursue novel research questions on large scales. 

By creating a free, flexible and easy to use tool (called Extractor) with data security and anonymity in mind, researchers will be able to safely collect data from a vast audience. This web application allows researchers to design surveys (with Survey Monkey) and download user information through Facebook’s Graph API. Upon user consent, this widely used application programming interface grants developers access to many user variables including detailed demographics, displayed profile information (e.g., user-written biography), relationship status, employment history, egocentric social network structure, News Feed, wall posts, status updates, likes, photos, and geographic history. Researchers can choose what information they wish too collect from this list and participants can elect to selectively consent to the collection of each type of requested information.

Extractor has two components: a backend dashboard that serves as a data management tool for researchers and a frontend that Facebook users interact with during the data collection process. Researchers will be able to create surveys with Survey Monkey and then integrate that survey into the Facebook data extraction tool. These surveys then can be distributed through Facebook ads or email outside of the Facebook ecosystem. Extractor is being piloted with a short survey study distributed through Facebook advertisements. This study examines the links between Facebook profile data, HIV risk behavior and substance use.

 


Rachel M. Brian, MPH

Research Project Director, Center for Technology and Behavioral Health

mHealth; SMI; Schizophrenia

brianRachel Brian is a Research Project Director serving under the direction of Dr. Dror Ben-Zeev at the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health at the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center at Dartmouth College. Rachel directs several research projects whose aims include the development and testing of multi-modal mobile sensing systems for detection of predictors of psychotic relapse, mobile self-management programs for schizophrenia, and mobile technologies to assess violence and suicidality in patients with psychiatric illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders.  

Rachel also helps lead the mhealth for mental health program (link will be active Feb 2015) which focuses on advancing collaborative efforts to study, assess and treat individuals with severe mental illness using mobile technologies. This group also trains mobile interventionists that leverage mobile technologies for real-time/real-place service provision in  outpatient and inpatient clinical settings.

Prior to her work at Dartmouth, Rachel developed health behavior change programs, supported research grants and program evaluation at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Michigan State Police Department, Johnson &  Johnson, as well as other non-profit institutions. Her research interests include exploring ways to use technology to reduce health disparities among marginalized populations including low-income communities, sexual minorities and those with severe mental illness. 


 

Selected Publications:

Brian RM, & Ben-Zeev D. (2014). Mobile health (mHealth) for mental health in Asia: Objectives, strategies, and limitations. Asian Journal of Psychiatry.

Ben-Zeev D, Drake RE & Brian RM (2014). Technologies for People with Serious Mental Illness. Behavioral Health Care and Technology: Using Science-Based Innovations to Transform Practice, 70.


Vaporizing Cannabis/Marijuana: Trends for Health and Abuse Liability

Funding Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Funding Period: 2014 – 2015

Principal Investigator: Alan J. Budney, PhD

Other Project Staff: Dustin C. Lee, PhD and Benjamin S. Crosier, PhD

Project Summary: 
Cannabis, or marijuana, is the most frequently used illicit drug with approximately 7.5% (or 19.8 million) of individuals in the United States over the age of 12 reporting current (past month) use in 2012. Approximately 8 million of these people use cannabis daily, and approximately 4 million appear to have problems related to their cannabis use (i.e., meet criteria for abuse and dependence). 

Change in cannabis laws in several states has increased ease of access to cannabis, and may also have expanded the types of cannabis products and increased the potency of cannabis available. Perhaps related to this, the methods used to consume cannabis may also be changing.

Increases in production of high potency cannabis products including edibles (i.e. brownies, candies, tea) and cannabis oils have increased marketing of alternatives to conventional smoking of cannabis. Vaporizing (“vaping”) cannabis is one such alternative. Vaping cannabis involves heating cannabis to a temperature such that the psychoactive components of the drug can be released without causing combustion. Various types of cannabis vaporizers are available, and, depending on the device, can either vaporize cannabis plant material or cannabis oil. Similar to electronic cigarettes, cannabis vaporizers provide an alternative method of administration that may eliminate some of the deleterious side effects associated with conventional smoking (e.g., inhalation of carcinogenic compounds), which may be appealing to a larger portion of the population. How such perceived health benefits influences use and use patterns of cannabis may have important implications for both health and abuse liability.

The objective this study is to gather information about the onset, prevalence, frequency, and pattern of vaporizer use among cannabis users, and to better understand their preferences for and choices of alternative ways of using cannabis. Data is being collected with a series of web-based surveys targeting US adults using Facebook advertisements.

Preliminary results from an initial survey of 1,036 adults indicated that 72% of the sample endorsed ever vaping cannabis. Nearly every individual that reported vaping cannabis also reported smoking, indicating that dual use of smoking and vaping cannabis was the most common pattern of use. Those that vaped cannabis were younger, more likely to be male, initiated cannabis use at an earlier age, and were heavier users. Those that preferred vaping to smoking indicated that vaping was healthier, more discreet, tasted better and had better effects than smoking.

Public Health Significance: 
Trends in cannabis use are rapidly changing but are not yet well understood. Vaping cannabis may eliminate some of the negative health effects associated with smoking, however concerns remain that perceptions of vaping as safer, more discreet, and more efficient/pleasurable may lead to increased patterns of use and misuse, especially among youth and young adults.