iPhone Psychiatry: Smartphone biomarkers that can help save lives

iPhone Psychiatry

The researchers said that we use our equipment all day, and it is believed that there are as many as 1,000 “biomarkers” for smartphones in depression. Applications that detect these warning signs can prove to save lives

The rise in suicide rates and depression among adolescents and young people has prompted researchers to ask a provocative question: Are some of the same devices that have been accused of technical age anxiety being used to detect it?

The idea sparked a contest to develop an app that warned of an impending mental health crisis. Called iPhone Psychiatry or Child Psychology 2.0. Studies have shown that heavy-duty smartphones use mental health with adolescents. However, when teenagers scroll through Instagram and Snapchat, click on text or watch YouTube videos, they also leave a digital footprint that may provide clues to their mental health.

According to preliminary research, typing speed, voice, word selection, and frequency changes in the child’s home may be troublesome. Former head of the National Institute of Mental Health, now a leader in the smartphone psychiatry movement, said Dr. Thomas Insel, who may have as many as 1,000 “biomarkers” for smartphones.

Researchers are testing experimental applications that use artificial intelligence to try to predict depressive episodes or potential self-harm. Dr. Alex Leow, an application developer and associate professor of psychiatry and bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said: “We are tracking the heartbeat of the human brain.” At least, this is the goal. There are some technical and ethical issues that need to be addressed – including privacy issues and ensuring that children are granted such close monitoring. Developers say that a proven, commercial sentiment detection application can take years rather than decades.

Nick Allen, a psychologist at the University of Oregon, said, “People often find these things creepy,” because the tech industry secretly tracks online habits for business use.

Using a smartphone as a mental illness detector will require the user’s informed consent to install the app. “They can revoke the license at any time,” said Allen, a creator of an app that is testing young people trying to commit suicide. one. “The biggest obstacle at the moment,” Allen said, “is to understand what the signal is and what the noise is. – What is the large amount of data people accumulate on the phone? These data indicate a mental health crisis.”

Depression affects about 3 million American teenagers, and this ratio has risen in the past decade. According to US government data, 13% of teenagers aged 12 to 17 suffered from depression last year, up from 8% in 2010. One in ten college age Americans are affected. In Australia, according to the latest estimates of the World Health Organization, 1.3 million Australians (5.9% of the population) experienced depression.

The US suicide rate rose to the second leading cause of death between the ages of 10 and 34. From 2007 to 2015, the mortality rate of young girls has doubled to 5 per 100,000 people. Among boys, interest rates have risen by 30% to ten tenths. A recent study suggests that the use of smartphones may increase at the same time. People with mental illness usually receive treatment when they are in crisis and late in the course of the disease. We hope to find a way to identify the earliest signs, “in an objective way, Insel said.

If smartphones prove to be accurate mood predictors, developers say the ultimate goal is to use them to provide real-time help, possibly using links to automated text messages and helplines, or sending digital alerts to parents, doctors or first responders. Facebook has done what is called “active detection.” Last year, after real-time streaming suicide, Facebook trained its artificial intelligence system to mark words or phrases in online posts that might indicate impending self-harm. A friend’s comment expressed concern about the health of the user as part of this equation.

“In the past year, we have helped emergency responders quickly reach out to about 3,500 people in need around the world,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in November. Facebook has not disclosed the results of these cases. Ongoing research includes: – A Stanford study involving about 200 adolescents, including children at risk of depression due to bullying, family environment or other life stress. As part of the study, teenagers who have been tracked since elementary school got an experimental mobile app that surveyed them three times a day for two weeks and questioned their mood.

Researcher is combining these answers in passive smartphone data, including active or sedentary children, to identify any changes that may be associated with future depression. Laurel Foster, a 15-year-old research participant, acknowledged pressure on academic pressure and “normal” teenage friendship pressure and said she was frustrated in high school in San Francisco. She said that using a smartphone app feels a bit like being monitored, but there are many online sites that have tracked the user’s habits “There is still a real difference.” “I think actually finding out what is stressful for you,” Rael said that he agrees with the idea of ​​using a smartphone to try to answer this question.

At UCLA, like part of a broader effort to launch campus depression in 2017, researchers are providing online counseling and experimental phone applications to students with at least mild signs of depression in screening tests. About 250 freshmen agreed to use the app in their first year. Personal sensory data collected from the application is being analyzed to understand its relationship to any deterioration or improvement in depressive symptoms that occurs in Internet therapy.

Sophomore Alyssa Lizarraga used the app for about six months on her mobile phone. He said it was a bit like Big Brother. Half of my people think so. The other half feels like I hope it will be useful. “Lizarraga, 19, has been suffering from depression since Whittier High School in California. She is worried that she is “addicted” to her mobile phone and spends a lot of time on social media sites. “People need to see me there,” she said. The best side, and comparing it to others on the Internet, sometimes disappoints her. But if they can see how their phones show signs of depression, then using a smartphone in a positive way for mental health may have Helps people to seek early treatment.- At the University of Illinois at Chicago, researchers studying depression and bipolar disorder are using crowdsourcing to test their experimental mobile apps. Anyone can download the free app, and nearly 2,000 people have so far agreed to let researchers keep track of typing speed, keystrokes and spell checking. Participants include healthy people whose data will help researchers understand the changes in cell phone use, which may indicate an emotional problem, and Leow, a psychiatric and bioengineering expert who helped develop it.

Leow said the study is for 18 years of age and older, but if proven effective, the technology can also be used in children.  – Mindstrong, a technology health company based in Palo Alto, Calif., co-founded by former NIH official Insel, is testing “digital phenotype” applications in several studies. Insel believes the technology is expected to change psychiatry, but the most important question is whether it can be used to improve the health of patients.

– Indeed, the technical health department of Google’s parent company Alphabet is developing a similar application, but declined to elaborate on its statement by mental health leader Menachem Fromer. He sets 2 key goals: predicting a person’s mental health and its symptoms, and “discovering new disease subtypes that may inform treatment decisions.”


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