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

Video On The Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime bombardment, VOA correspondent finds More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid