Rob (30) does per day 400 measurements on his body: “It is a bit of an obsession, yes

877c07f0418f2447a9ba2afa67a8292d - Rob (30) does per day 400 measurements on his body: "It is a bit of an obsession, yes

Data researcher Rob ter Horst goes weekly under the MRI-scanner and do each day about 400 measurements of his body. ‘My girlfriend thinks that I’m too much time spent.’

Rob ter Horst (30) proudly shows his big backpack full of tupperwarebakjes. Contents: wires, meetapparaatjes, a thermometer. We are in the nijmegen, accompanied research centre, Donders Institute in …

Rob ter Horst (30) proudly shows his big backpack full of tupperwarebakjes. Contents: wires, meetapparaatjes, a thermometer. We are in the nijmegen, accompanied research centre, Donders Institute, in a room full of computers. A student is included to provide details of his MRI scan. In that scanner will Ter Horst – glasses, messy beard, floral shirt – voluntarily every week are in order to measure brain activity. He wears two straps around his wrist that heart rate and physical activity measurement. On his belt hang three klikkers, including one that he used to count how much one day he is drinking.


Rob ter Horst (30) does phd research in bio-informatics in the department of internal medicine of the Radboud UMC in Nijmegen. He worked in the hospital previously as a data researcher, and did an internship at an institute of the American universities MIT and Harvard. He studied for his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree summa cum laude in chemistry at the Radboud University.

A year and a half ago, he started with an experiment which he has become probably the most quantified self, the most included person of the Netherlands. He is doing every day around 400 different measurements by themselves, some automatically, some manually. Bloedmetingen, information from activiteitenmeters, once per week, with electrodes on his head to sleep to sleep patterns, to measure daily four questionnaires to fill in about how he feels. Each week, he sends a tube of poop to a lab for the genetic composition of the intestinal bacteria. His phone screen is full of measuring apps.

“A little bit of an obsession, yes

He is there eleven hours a week working on it and to say the past year no important measurement missed. “I have the needles of the daily bloedprik to get my glucose to be measured on a bulletin board and pinned it. With the needles I have the text written: I don’t have OCD, I don’t have OCD, I don’t have OCD.’ No obsessive compulsive disorder so according to himself. But quite normal is it, anyway? “I don’t know if addiction is the right word, but this seems to be a bit on an obsession, yes.”

Also on holidays the backpack full of equipment. If he is drunk, measure good by. He is sometimes asleep at the desk when entering data. “My girlfriend and I started exactly with a date when I with all my measurements started. She thinks it’s cool what I do hear. But they will find that I there is too much time spent.’

What inspires him, and what of his project to learn about the future of quantified self?

“It started as a funny way of getting to my friends and family will be better to be able to explain what work I actually do.” Ter Horst is immunologically datawetenschapper at the Radboud UMC, where he is a phd. He was in the beginning, especially in the back with a fitbit and the data from that bracelet to patterns in its own data. That became more and more measurements, apps, straps, sensors, and he went questionnaires to track about how he feels.

Known relationships

That hobby went so out of hand that several graduate students are involved in the collection and analysis of data, as the data from the MRI scans and the slaapmetingen. He may, of the Donders Institute weekly under the MRI scanner, which he brain structure and activity measure: he hopes that any fluctuations therein are also to be traced back to things like diets, exercise, and the influence of sleep on the brain. The Donders Institute found the experiment interesting enough to the expensive scanner available.

After one year of measurements starting In Horst the first patterns in the data to discern, though, he waits with the analysis of large datasets to the measurements in between is not ideal to influence. In the summer he expects enough data to have anything meaningful to say.

“I see now, for example, that if I drink alcohol, my blood pressure is lower and my body temperature which drops. And if I have a night less sleep is my blood pressure right up.’ These are well known relationships. The student who are slaapscans analyiseert, is to now focus on that Ter Horst ‘very stable’ sleeps.

Extra much chocolate

That are not yet very spectacular results, plotted against the time investment. Not to say downright disappointing. ‘Indeed, there are still no great things come to pass.’ That can still come of course, but the project of Ter Horst seems to be mainly to demonstrate that the vision of companies like Google and Apple on the fully quantified man is still pretty far away. Because who is going to go well for 11 hours per week to lichaamsmetingen spend?

“For most people, it will definitely be a step too far,” says Ter Horst. He expected the most of the combination of the objective measurements such as sleep, blood pressure and physical activity with subjective data as the completed questionnaires on emotion and state of mind. Ultimately, it is his great purpose, to find out what factors determine when he is happier and more productive.

“A number of the readings that I do really have a scientific purpose, the MRI, EEG, and genetic composition of my poepbacteriën for example. We can here findings do not previously have been possible. Or this me anything specifically about my life, learn that I have a change supply, of course, is the question.”

Ter Horst will soon also experiments going to do: for example, for a time, at five o’clock in the morning getting up to see what effect that has on his body. Or additional a lot of chocolate to eat to see what that does. ‘This, I learn, hopefully, something about myself.”

It would of course be that the eventually virtually produces nothing, all that data. But still, helps this kind of experiments to find out what works, what doesn’t, what it can, what is possible and impossible with data on the body, hopes to Ter Horst.

Happiness and stress

And what if he put something on the wrong way to measure, or there is a wrong conclusion to connect? With preventive body scans have been where people for instance try to be in a early stage cancer, diving too often so-called false positives. Then go there alarm bells off due to a weird place or a different outcome, a lot of healthcare expenses made, and it appears there is not much to the hand.

“The only time I worried was when certain bloedmetingen where my hemoglobin close to the lower bound came from what was normal. I’m a vegetarian, so when I thought that I might have a bit more meat substitutes needed to eat. It helps that I am no hypochondriac, I’m not as fast pressure. I don’t know if I already had the measurements of hypochondriacs would recommend. But the data give me now also understand certainty that I have certain diseases, do not have. So I know by the blood tests in any case, definitely that I not have leukemia.’

After a year, he is a bit more grounded on the potential of quantified self. “I had higher expectations, honestly. It is really interesting if you also have computerized information you can collect about happiness and stress. There are companies working to make that, for example, to deduce from the pauses between your heartbeats, but that is still in its infancy. Until that time, it costs a lot of people simply take too much time to set everything manually to collect.’

“I’m really just a nerd’

It’s quantified self for the large technology companies also to recognise patterns in large amounts of data from millions, to billions of people, not necessarily large amounts of data about one specific individual. “The big question is at what these companies do, is also, or, ultimately, useful insights for consumers themselves, or that they use the data to serve ads better tailored to certain people.’

Even if these intensive measurements to give him nothing échts learn about what helps him to live a healthier and happier life, than he has in any case learned that we don’t have too much of this kind of data to expect, ” he says. “But what is also true: I’m just a nerd, I am fascinated by dates. I find it simply fun to do.”

“I will, however, need to stop

He is still fun, even though it mean his extensive measurements that he almost never at the same time with his girlfriend. “I’m usually a half-hour later. Not really romantic, of course. That is also something its bothering actually. I think there is also a kind of deal with her to close, that I occasionally a measurement is skipping, for instance.’

He should be home sleeping, or a backpack full of equipment meezeulen. “I can imagine that this is at a given moment to live a normal life get in the way.’ Ter Horst wants, probably by the end of 2019, with most of the measurements cease. “I will, however, need to stop.”

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