Researchers Develop Smartphone App That Detects Depression


If you are one of the many 350 million people worldwide who suffer from depression, a new smartphone app that detects when you’re having a hard time through speech analysis might be for you.

Researchers from the University of Maryland developed the app, Samaritans Radar, based on their scientific findings that claim patients’ vocal features change as their depression worsens.

In the study, a quantitative probe measured the depression of six patients using a standard clinical evaluation tool known as the Hamilton Depression Scale. The study specifically studied teenagers, as acoustician Carol Espy-Wilson noted.

“Their emotions are all over the place during this time, and that's when they're really at risk for depression. We have to reach out and figure out a way to help kids in that stage,” Espy-Wilson said.

The team also recorded each patient speaking openly about their daily experiences. The test lasted over a period of six weeks and found that that as feelings of depression worsen, a person’s speech becomes breathier and slower. An increase in jitter and shimmer were also discovered in each patient’s voice.

The UM researchers now plan to conduct the study on a much larger population to verify their results and compare the findings to the speech patterns of people with no history of mental illness.

Samaritans Radar, which monitors Twitter users’ feed for signs of depression, was unveiled last week. Once linked to the account, the app will send user alerts when a tweet is found to be alarming.

The app is similar to one developed by researchers at Dartmouth College, which tracks students’ mental health, academic performance and behavioral trends.

According to California-based Zur Institute, a number of smartphone apps have already been developed to help those with mental illnesses cope, including 10 that specifically deal with depression.

Source: RT

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