Smartphone Apps Diagnosing Depression



As smart phone technology continues to revolutionize the means communication by providing functional applications, furthering developments have led into a new generation of apps that will assist in diagnostics in various medical fields including depression. Recent diagnostics of patients with clinical depression have found speech patterns to have direct correlation of depression symptoms. Smartphones have already designed app mechanisms used to monitor fitness, heart rate and other forms of physical activities through the use of motion sensors tracking performance in related fields.

Other useful apps such as vocal command and GPS systems require fine-tuned instruments in order to process and produce accurate assessments to its functions. Researchers conducted by the University of Maryland have specified changes in breathing and slowing vocal patterns in patients worsen as depression progresses. University scientists advocate the production of smartphone software using established app functions as a possible assistant in rough diagnostics by providing physical evidence of depression symptoms versus an individual’s testament or auto analytic report.

As of now some smartphone apps have been developed and undergone trial run examination observing the effects of day-to-day experiences in students regarding their mental health in search of any signs of depression. Such tests were performed at the University of Dartmouth using an app that collects student activities through motion sensors and microphone. The app then produces a personalized profile of the student. Over a ten week run the app logged student data and found levels of stress and depression linked to the student’s variant lifestyles over the course of their trials.

Dartmouth professor Andrew Campbell leading the research program took note of the results and believes apps offer a viable resource to doctors and patients alike by tipping off the user when reaching patterns resembling depressive symptoms and my require medical attention. The professor continues to suggest smart phone apps should be interactive with the user, letting the person know what measures should be taken given a potential symptom threatening the user thus helping to prevent a diagnosis for depression needlessly. Although the current smartphone apps are found to lack scientific evidence to their efficiency they retain the high potential for substantial improvement to depression treatment methods.

The Smartphone app project conducted at Dartmouth has proved apps to be beneficial to anyone suffering from depressive symptoms, even in their diagnosis. Since then the University of Northwestern created an app called Mobilyze. The functions of the application tap into the user’s calls, texts and email frequencies attaining the user interactive patterns. The app has a built-in accelerometer and uses the phones GPS detecting weather or not the user is out and about of just lying around. After learning an individual’s daily rhythm it gauges changes against the stable patterns and alerts the user to perform a function in order to avoid any state of malcontent. In the case a person should fall into any negative behavioral patterns the app will prompt a change in the user’s activity. A number of apps have been created to aid people with mental conditions, ten of which are directed to those suffering of depression.

by Ernesto Perez

 Scientific American
The Independant
Photo by Johan Larsson – Flickr License