How Accurate Could a Computer Be at Diagnosing Depression?

Researchers have developed computer software that can diagnose clinical depression by noticing how people behave during psychiatric interviews.

Researchers have developed computer software that can accurately diagnose clinical depression by noticing how people behave during psychiatric interviews. But unlike long discussions about family history and mental feelings, the software gauges biomarkers that are thought to be more objective than a psychiatric evaluation.


Developed by researchers at the University of Southern California and Carnegie Mellon University, the software tracks how a person moves during a video-recorded interview, taking its cues from three primary biological indications.

How long you hold a smile and how often you look at the ground can diagnose clinical depression with 75 percent accuracy. By analyzing speech pattern, the test becomes 85 percent accurate.

One qualitative standard used by psychiatrists to diagnose depression is the pronunciation of vowels — depressed people tend to slur them. "The software found that depressed participants’ vowel-space ratio in normal speech was 0.49 (compared with 1.0 for a reference population reading a standard word list)."

While the software isn't designed to replace psychiatric evaluations performed by trained mental health professionals, it could relieve some pressure from doctors' often-busy schedules. But the real benefit would be alleviating the pain sooner of those suffering from depression.

Technology has replaced labor in industrial sectors for decades, but more advanced industries, from law to medicine, are also at risk of being replaced by automation. Andrew McAfee, associate director of the Center for Digital Business at the MIT Sloan School of Management, explains:

Develop mindfulness to boost your creative intelligence

Sharon Salzberg, world-renowned mindfulness leader, teaches meditation at Big Think Edge.

Image: Big Think
Big Think Edge
  • Try meditation for the first time with this guided lesson or, if you already practice, enjoy being guided by a world-renowned meditation expert.
  • Sharon Salzberg teaches mindfulness meditation for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Google Maps apologizes for going rogue in Japan

The navigation tool has placed a school in the sea, among other things.

Strange Maps
  • Google has apologized for the sudden instability of its maps in Japan.
  • Errors may stem from Google's long-time map data provider Zenrin – or from the cancellation of its contract.
  • Speculation on the latter option caused Zenrin shares to drop 16% last Friday.
Keep reading Show less

MIT study: 24-hour fasting regenerates stem cells, doubles metabolism

This gives credence to the 5-2 diet, which has recently gained in popularity thanks to a large celebrity following.

Pexels, user @Deena
popular

Chances are you're probably thinking about food right now in some capacity. Maybe it's close to dinner and you're wondering what you are going to eat. Maybe you had a really good lunch and are fondly reminiscing about your BLT, or whatnot. Or maybe, just maybe, you're thinking about not eating food for a while. 

Keep reading Show less

A new theory explains Jupiter’s perplexing origin

A new computer model solves a pair of Jovian riddles.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)
Surprising Science
  • Astronomers have wondered how a gas giant like Jupiter could sit in the middle of our solar system's planets.
  • Also unexplained has been the pair of asteroid clusters in front of and behind Jupiter in its orbit.
  • Putting the two questions together revealed the answer to both.
Keep reading Show less