Developing mental healthcare technologies, understanding self-management interactive systems for affective health and wellbeing

AffecTech colleagues from the University of Pisa were proud to host an exciting workshop in Berlin this year at the prestigious EMBC conference, focused on models of emotion regulation, advances in affective computing and future directions in affective computing for mental health.

The workshop at the 41st EMBC (Engineering in Medicine and Biology) conference, a prominent conference in the biomedical engineering field, was held in Berlin, Germany on july 23rd, 2019. AffecTech partners from the University of Pisa organised the half-day workshop geared toward an audience of graduate and undergraduate students as well as academics attending the conference. Approximately 50 attendees benefited from this multidisciplinary workshop, which included a number of respected guest speakers with various professional backgrounds, targeting the engineering field in biomedical signal and image processing and speech analysis as well as psychological field in applied neuroscience and neuropsychology. The workshop was followed by interesting discussions and notable interactions among the attendees opening up new prospective directions in affective computing.

An abstract and overview of the workshop program is below:

Advances and challenges in the field of emotion recognition and emotion regulation for designing technology-based interventions for affective disorders


Affective disorders (AD) are estimated to be among the highest-ranking causes of mental disease in the upcoming years. Over the last decades, there has been great attention to the impact of technologies on psychotherapeutic practice for the treatment of AD. Understanding emotions and their underlined processes construct the main elements of therapeutic practice, but, apart from solely characterising the emotional states, the challenge remains on how to capture emotional changes or state emotion regulation. The current personal technologies aim to automatically characterise alternations in emotional experiences through self-reports embedded in mobile technologies or, rarely, using biosensors. The research on digital mental healthcare system tends to propose novel interactive-based ecological assessment and intervention platforms that could be harnessed for emotion regulation. The therapies based on emotion regulation help individuals to have a better insight into their daily life emotional changes and trigger people’s habitual responses through training their emotion regulation strategies. Most of these strategies are gaining benefits from reappraisal, mindfulness and biofeedback techniques. In this workshop, we organised panels to cover the interdisciplinary approach for introducing the strategies of emotion regulation as well as challenges in designing technology-based interventions for affective disorders. We aimed to introduce fundamental models of emotion, and advanced signal processing methods to characterise physiological influential theories of emotion regulation and adaptive technology-based emotion regulation strategies. The main objectives of the event are providing better knowledge on developing mental healthcare technologies, understanding how the self-management interactive systems give us insights in emotional experience and covering the state-of-the-art of theories and methods which aim to enhance affective health and wellbeing.


A. Luca Mainardi, Politecnico di Milano, 8:30 – 9:10
Title: Analysis of physiological and non-contact signals for the assessment of emotional components in consumer preference.
Biographical sketch: Luca Mainardi is Professor at Politecnico di Milano, Italy. Co-chair of the SPiNlabS Laboratory at Politecnico di Milano, his research activity is in the field of biomedical signal and image processing and biomedical system modelling with applications to the cardiovascular system.

B. Raquel Bailón, University of Zaragoza 9:10 – 9:50
Title: Pitfalls and challenges in heart rate variability analysis for emotion recognition.
Biographical sketch: Raquel Bailón is Associate Professor at the University of Zaragoza. She is also a researcher with the Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red en Bioingeniería, Biomateriales y Nanomedicina, Spain. Her research interests include the analysis of the dynamics and interactions of cardiovascular signals in nonstationary conditions.

C. Nicola Vanello, University of Pisa, 9:50 – 10:30
Title: Can we analyse voice signal to detect mood swings?
Biographical sketch: Nicola Vanello, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the Dipartimento di Ingegneria dell’Informazione at the University of Pisa. His research activity is focused on biomedical signal and image processing and includes the analysis of speech signal with a special focus in the estimation of subjects’ mood and emotional state.

D. Claudio Gentili, University of Padova 10:30 – 11:10
Title: From experimental to clinical psychopathology: the use of ECG to characterize mood disorders from a clinician perspective.
Biographical sketch: Claudio Gentili, MD is Associate Professor of Clinical PSychology at the Univerisity of Padua. His main research interests fall in the area of the application of biomedical signals (fMRI, ECG, EEG) for the diagnosis and the clinical evaluation of mental disorders.

E. Mariano Luis Alcaniz Raya, Universitat Politècnica de València, 11:10 – 11:50
Title: Immersive neuropsychotherapy: bridging neuroscience and virtual reality for mental healthcare interventions
Biographical sketch: Professor at Polytechnic University of Valencia and director of the European Laboratory of Immersive Neurotechnologies (LENI). His research activity focuses in the integration of virtual environments with applied neuroscience techniques to better understand human behaviour in fields such as mental health, marketing, human resources or education.

F. Gün R. Semin, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, 11:50 – 12:30
Title: The Communicative Axilla and the Knowing Nose: Human Sweat as Carrier of Information
Biographical sketch: Gün R. Semin is currently Professor of Psychology at ISPA –Instituto Universitário and the founding Director of the William James Center for Research in Lisbon, Portugal. He was an Academy Professor with The Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences at Utrecht University. In 2012 the Queen of Netherlands conferred upon him the order “Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau”, for his contributions to science.

For more information about this conference workshop on personal mental health technologies please visit: https://embc.embs.org/2019/workshops/

About AffecTech



The AffecTech project is an international collaborative research network that advances personal health technologies for affective disorders – depression, anxiety and bipolar, and aims to deliver an effective low cost technology platform to help sufferers. AffecTech is a project funded by European Union Horizon 2020, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks.