Smartphones Can Detect Bipolar Disorder

Smartphones can indicate the depression and elation patters of individuals with bipolar disorder.

Research conducted at the Center for Research and Telecommunication Experimentation for Networked Communities in Trento, Italy, has shown how. Researcher Dr. Venet Osmani conducted a four-month long study to show how data obtained from the users’ smartphone can indicate mood patterns.

The study involved 12 patients with bipolar disorder between 2012 and 2013. Osmani conducted traditional mental health practices like counseling and checked on each one of them every three weeks.

The accelerometer speed and GPS data showed whether the patient was in one location or was racing around several locations, thereby, indicating whether the patient was in a manic phase or not.

The frequency and duration of calls also indicated whether the patient was in a manic phase of not. Not answering calls was indicative of a depressive phase wherein the patient wanted to be alone.

Bipolar disorder is a serious condition in which the patient oscillates between periods of extreme elation and severe depression. In the elation phase, patients can be ecstatic and hyperactive. In the other phase, patients can feel devastatingly low and completely lethargic.

Detecting these mood changes in real-time has always been challenging. This is where a method like the one introduced by Osmani promises to be useful at least up to some extent.

The results were largely positive. Location and activity data together predicted a charge in mood with almost 94 percent accuracy due to the use of a cell phone signal booster for car. A combination of this data with the phone call records increased the predictive success by over 97 percent.

Osmani said that this means that there were practically no false alarms at all. Early detection of manic-depressive mood phases could lead to timely intervention and, therefore, improved treatment outcomes.

However, there are serious limitations to this study since it involved only 12 patients and the data was also collected over a span of just 12 weeks.

A longer study can better demonstrate the accuracy of the findings. Osmani has said that there are plans for a longer more intensive follow-up study. With the rapidly evolving cell phone sensor technology, the data might get even more accurate and reliable over time.