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Research findings using artificial intelligence theory

Professor of Health Psychology, Michael Hyland, from the University of Plymouth, reports on research recently conducted looking at the classification and understanding of functional disorders such as fibromyalgia, using theory based on the science of artificial intelligence. Fibromyalgia Action UK helped to advertise the study in 2016.

Three blind men wanted to feel what an elephant was like. One said it was like a wall, another like a tree trunk and the third that it was like a snake. Although each man accurately described what he felt, none had described the elephant. This story provides an analogy of what, I believe, is happening with fibromyalgia. Some people think it is a problem with nerves; others that it is caused by problems with capillaries. Others have focused on yet other mechanisms that cause pain. People with fibromyalgia know that fibromyalgia is not just pain, but involves many other symptoms as well. I have been working on a theory that can explain the whole of the phenomenon of fibromyalgia – like trying to see the whole of the elephant. The theory is based on the science of artificial intelligence rather than biology or psychology.

The theory in brief is this. All the various symptoms of fibromyalgia are caused by biological mechanisms. Those mechanisms are connected to form a network of interconnected mechanisms. This network forms the basis of a system capable of machine learning – i.e., artificial intelligence – and which sometimes ‘goes wrong’.With the help of people with fibromyalgia and Fibromyalgia Action UK, I conducted a survey of fibromyalgia symptoms. Using a machine learning procedure, we provided the first concrete evidence for my theory. We found that as fibromyalgia gets more severe, two things happen. First, the pathology of all the different mechanisms in the network increases. Second, the strength of connection between the different mechanisms increases. This study provides evidence that the ‘software’ of the body changes as severity increases.I am writing this summary to personally thank all of those who took part in our survey two years ago. The question you will no doubt ask yourself is, does this (somewhat theoretical) research provide any clues to treatment? The answer is that it does and that requires some additional explanation.The theory is not just a theory – any more than fibromyalgia is just pain. A few years ago, a doctor contacted me about my theory. That doctor was Dr Anthony Davies who has helped people with fibromyalgia over many years in Plymouth, UK.

Some people with fibromyalgia get slowly better over time, some stay the same and some slowly deteriorate. Dr Davies saw that the theory could be used to help increase the chance of recovery. He developed the ‘body reprogramming’ course which can be prescribed on the NHS by GPs in Plymouth. The aim of the course is to provide patients with the information and support to help recovery. The course teaches patients what they can do to help their bodies self-heal. Body reprogramming courses started last year and, although not formally evaluated, many patients who attended the course report that they are slowly improving. Dr Davies has just starting to train other health professionals to delivery body reprogramming elsewhere in the NHS. Although there is currently limited availability to attend the course, the information provided in the course can be access online.

We have written a ‘patient guide’ that can be downloaded for free from:www.bodyreprogramming.org Dr Davies and I are both committed to making access to body reprogramming a free service – there are no paywalls. Whether or not you contributed to this research please feel free to download the information that this research has been able to support via the above link.

ReferenceMelidis, C., Denham, S.L. and Hyland, M.E., 2017.
A test of the adaptive network explanation of functional disorders using a machine learning analysis of symptoms. Biosystems. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0303264717302435 

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