News / Health

Smartphone App Created for People with Bipolar Disorder

Jessica Berman
A new smartphone application can monitor the subtle changes in the voices of individuals with bipolar disorder, a serious mental illness marked by extreme highs and lows in mood.  Scientists hope the app will help doctors detect early signs of mood alterations requiring immediate medical attention.  

Bipolar disorder affects tens of millions of people around the world.  Experts say 10 to 20 percent of them end up committing suicide.

Bipolar individuals struggle with flights of mania, during which they behave impulsively, feel invincible and often engage in high-risk activities. At the other emotional extreme, people with the mental condition battle severe depression.  The disorder can ruin relationships and families.  

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a smartphone app designed to identify the first signs that a bipolar patient is becoming unstable.  

The project, dubbed PRIORI, is aimed at picking up subtle changes in the person’s voice suggestive of mood instability, so patients can be treated promptly before they spiral out of control.

The app, which runs silently in the background as people talk on their cell phones, sends encrypted speech pattern data to a central computer that analyzes voice inflections and pacing.

Psychiatrist Melvin McInnis, part of a team at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor that is testing the experimental app, says it’s best to pick up early signs of mania since patients who advance to a full blown manic episode often refuse treatment.  

"So, they are [thinking] that, 'Hey, I am feeling great.  And there’s nothing wrong with me.  And don’t bother increasing my medication because I am fine,'" he said.

But they're not fine.

Patients who are becoming manic may speak more quickly or louder than usual. McInnis says detecting early signs of a depressive episode is more difficult as individuals may try to conceal their growing sense of hopelessness.  

In the yearlong study, a small group of patients also checked in weekly with a health care provider for a clinical assessment.

According to the World Health Organization, bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability worldwide.  But experts say there’s a shortage of psychiatrists and mental health workers.

With billions of people now using mobile phones, McInnis believes the PRIORI app could make it easier for people in developing countries to get treatment quickly.

“When an individual has a change.. the health system can be alerted and said [told] you know, 'Mr. Jones or Mrs. Jones is in need of an intervention and should be called to the medical center to be evaluated further for change in the need for interventions in their health,'" he said.

Researchers unveiled the smartphone application at the International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing meeting in Italy.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid