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Smartphone app analyzes speech patterns to diagnose manic attacks

Though many people living with mental health issues are unable to work, there are some conditions that, when treated properly, an individual can work just like anyone else. Bipolar disorder, if managed, need not be a barrier to work. The problem is, however, that many people may not realize something is wrong if they are either in a depressed mood or at the far opposite end of the spectrum in a manic episode.

One way to tell whether a person is either depressed or manic is by listening to his or her speech. If he or she is talking quickly and having trouble staying on topic, he or she could be having a manic episode. On the other hand, if he or she is talking slowly with numerous pauses, he or she could be depressed.

And so, one psychiatrist is looking at speech analysis as a tool for diagnosing bipolar patients' moods. He is specifically looking at using smartphones as a way to capture speech.

The app that he and his team are currently testing will record an example of a patient's speech and send it to the office daily. Once in the office, the psychiatrist's computer would analyze the recording's inflection, speed and energy. Based off of these facets, the computer and psychiatrist should be able to determine if the patient is in a full-blown manic episode or depression.

Currently, the app is better at detecting manic episodes than depression.

If left unchecked, a patient's manic episodes and depression could make it difficult to hold down a job, to say the least.

Source: National Public Radio, "Phone App Might Predict Manic Episodes In Bipolar Disorder," Joe Palca, May 31, 2014

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