We are excited to welcome Dr. Benjamin Nelson to our growing research team as a research scientist. Benjamin holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and comes to the team with over 10 years of clinical and research experience. He specializes in the utilization of wearable and smartphone devices to identify and monitor how our physical health affects our mental health and vice versa. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon at the Center for Digital Mental Health and the Adolescent Development and Psychopathology Team Lab. He completed his Psychology Residency at the University of Washington School of Medicine and is a postdoc at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In his research, Benjamin has been looking at different neurobiological mechanisms that might connect our day-to-day mental and physical health. He has studied that predominantly in three ways: 1) by looking at electrocardiology, so how our heart works, 2) by collecting saliva samples and looking at markers of systemic inflammation throughout our bodies, and 3) by collecting markers of telomere length that are the caps at the end of our DNA that tend to degrade faster when we experience stress. Part way through his Ph.D. on this topic, Benjamin started to wonder if what he did in the laboratory translated to the real world where he was seeing his patients: “I started using wearables like Apple Watch, Fitbit and smartphone devices to try to index a lot of those same variables that I did in laboratories, but in the real world where I could collect data at a much higher temporal frequency, and also see the fluctuations throughout these variables in day-to-day lives.”
For Benjamin it boils down to making an impact in people’s lives: “One of the things that attracted me to Meru Health was that they are very much positioned for scalability, reaching out to a lot of people at once. Also, a lot of the research decisions and discoveries that we make at Meru Health can very quickly get intertwined into improving the program. It’s incredibly important to me for my research to not just stay inside the ivory tower but to get out there and help people make their lives a little bit less stressful and help them be more at ease in their day-to-day lives. I was also appealed by the fact that Meru is systematically doing rigorous research and putting it out in peer-reviewed journals. It just made me have immense respect for the process.”
At Meru Health, Benjamin will be working alongside other researchers to help continuously improve the Meru Health program and expand what is known to be possible in mental health treatments.
A warm welcome to the Meru Health team, Benjamin!
Learn more about the research at Meru Health here