Use Your Smartphone to Spot Schizophrenia, Soon

Speaking into your smartphone for two minutes could reveal whether you have a mental health condition!

That is according to the developers of an app that analyses facial expressions and speech to diagnose schizophrenia.

The company behind the app, AICure, hopes it could be used to better support and monitor people with schizophrenia, and eventually those who have other mental health conditions.

The current version was developed to measure symptoms of schizophrenia like low mood and difficulty thinking, which are normally harder to measure than symptoms like hallucinations and delusions.

To do this, the app tracks facial movements, as well as the content, tone and pitch of a person’s speech. Some people with schizophrenia move more slowly, and show less emotion on their faces. The app can then send a score to the person’s doctor, rating these symptoms.

However, it is not designed to spot other symptoms associated with the condition, such as hallucinations.

AICure tested the app with 21 people who have schizophrenia and nine people who do not. The participants made weekly recordings over 12 weeks. Each person was also evaluated by a clinician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York at the start and end of the study.

The results of this small trial suggest that the app’s ratings “are highly correlated” with those of a clinician, states AICure. However, AICure does not yet have enough data to prove its app works, because the sample size is very small. The results can be viewed more as a proof of concept than as a diagnostic tool, which is a little way off.

Reference

Hamzelou, J. (2019) Smartphone App Could Spot Signs of Schizophrenia. New Scientist. 28 September 2019, pp.7.

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