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Healthier hearts through mathematics. A team of College of Engineering scientists led by Malvin Teich, ENG professor of electrical and computer engineering, have developed the first objective diagnostic tool to determine congestive heart failure. A simple mathematical analysis of the pattern of a person's heartbeat detects the problem with 100 percent accuracy, report the scientists in the February 16 issue of Physical Review Letters.

The team analyzed data from 15 patients with severe congestive heart failure and from 12 healthy individuals, applying a mathematical technique known as multiresolution wavelet analysis to determine how much the time duration of a collection of heartbeats fluctuated. By examining these collections they were able to accurately predict which patients had this type of heart disease and which did not.

Traditionally, congestive heart failure is diagnosed by a physician through subjective techniques such as visual observation and stethoscopic observation of heart and lung sounds. Teich's technique uses objective criteria to make the diagnosis.

"Using this information, we could develop a simple portable device that individuals would wear to monitor their heartbeat pattern and warn them of a developing problem," says Teich. "Now that we know this technique can predict congestive heart failure, we will apply it to other cardiac disorders that are more difficult to diagnose."

The complete paper can be found at the Physical Review Letters Web site, located at: http:// PRLTAOhome/top.html.

Private matters. The National Institute of Mental Health recently renewed a grant for the Sexuality Research and Treatment Program at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders to continue its study of sexual functioning in men and women. The research team is led by CAS Professor of Psychology David H. Barlow, director of the Center and director of the Clinical Psychology Program, and CAS Associate Research Professor Timothy Brown. According to the researchers, more than half of all adults experience a sexual dysfunction at some time in their lives.

The Program studies sexual dysfunction and provides clinical services to people who are experiencing problems with sexual functioning. "Where appropriate, we provide short-term cognitive-behavioral therapy," says Barlow. "That is, we help patients to modify thought patterns and behaviors in order to improve their satisfaction with sexual functioning."

The grant from NIMH involves a series of 14 studies: 10 studies on sexual functioning in men and 4 studies on women. The studies look at how various factors such as mood, expectations, and attention to changes in one's physiological state influence sexual functioning.

The Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders is a nationally known center for the assessment and treatment of anxiety disorders. It specializes in the treatment and scientific investigation of phobias, other anxiety-based problems, and depression. It is staffed by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists affiliated with Boston University and clinical psychology doctoral students.

In addition to the Sexuality Research and Treatment Program, the Center offers treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social phobias, specific phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Childhood anxiety is treated in the Child and Adolescent Fear and Anxiety Treatment Program. Patients may be self-referred or referrals may be made through family physicians or mental health practitioners.

"Research Briefs" is written by Joan Schwartz in the Office of the Provost. To read more about BU research, visit


15 May 2003
Boston University
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