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Research by Alan Turing Institute interns helps to diagnose the links between weather and pain

pexels-photo-25509 (1)Early results from a mass participation research study has indicated a link between weather conditions – specifically rain and lack of sunshine – and chronic pain.

Over the summer a group of Turing Institute interns helped to analyse the data from over 9000 UK participants in the ‘Cloudy with a chance of pain’ project, who entered their daily symptoms into a smartphone app which linked up with hourly weather data from the Met Office.

This research contributed to the preliminary findings shared this week by the University of Manchester which suggested an association between the number of sunny days and rainfall levels and changes in pain levels.

Katie Druce, a project supervisor from the University of Manchester, who worked on the project at The Alan Turing Institute over the summer, commented:

“It’s really great to see an immediate impact from some of the research we conducted over the summer. During our time at the Turing Institute myself, Sabine Van der Veer (project co-supervisor) and our three interns, Bertie Vidgen, David Selby and Konstantinos Georgatzis, were charged with investigating patterns of app engagement and some preliminary analysis of the weather-pain association. It is thanks to us having these exceptionally hard working interns that we are able to make sense of such a complex dataset. We look forward to hearing more about the future developments which will come from the ongoing analysis of Cloudy.”

Prof Will Dixon from the University of Manchester, who led the ‘Cloudy with a chance of pain’ project, said:

“These interim findings in the project are very encouraging and we are grateful to all those researchers, including the three doctoral students who took part in the Turing Institute’s Summer Programme, for helping us analyse this complex dataset. The interns’ work on patterns of engagement with the app has demonstrated Cloudy as one of the most internationally successful smartphone studies in terms of long-term engagement.

Once the link between weather and pain is established, people will have the confidence to plan their activities in accordance with the weather. In addition, understanding how weather influences pain will allow medical researchers to explore new pain interventions and treatments.

To work out the details of how weather influences pain, we need as many people as possible to participate in the study and track their symptoms regularly on their smartphone”.

People interested in joining the Cloudy with a chance of pain project – and who have access to a smartphone – can sign up at www.cloudywithachanceofpain.com. The project is funded by Arthritis Research UK.

The Alan Turing Institute Summer Programme took place May – August 2016. This earlier news story provides further details.