Bipolar? There Could Soon Be an App for That

App uses voice analysis to give an early warning about mood changes.

Posted: 05/27/2014 01:19 PM EDT

Researchers are testing a smartphone app using voice analysis to detect mood swings in people with bipolar disorder. The disorder, a mental illness that causes extreme emotional highs and lows, affects millions of people across the globe and can have serious consequences.

The app, tested on a small group of patients, showed early promise, according to researchers at the University of Michigan. “These pilot study results give us preliminary proof of the concept that we can detect mood states in regular phone calls by analyzing broad features and properties of speech, without violating the privacy of those conversations,” said study co-leader Zahi Karam, a specialist in machine learning and speech analysis. “As we collect more data, the model will become better, and our ultimate goal is to be able to anticipate swings, so that it may be possible to intervene early.”

If further testing confirms early results, the app could be used to detect subtle voice changes that give an early warning about mood changes to people with bipolar disorder and their health care providers. “The ability to predict mood changes with sufficient advance time to intervene would be an enormously valuable biomarker for bipolar disorder,” said study co-leader Melvin McInnis, a bipolar specialist.

Read more about the new bipolar app at BlackHealthMatters.Com.

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