AI and Depression

Depression © johnhain, CC BY 0

Depression is a type of mental illness that can have negative effects on how one feel, think and act. There are currently 300 million people in the whole world experiencing depression. Some of the feelings include a sense of sadness, hopeless, a loss of interest in daily activities, and a loss of appetite. There are many types of depression and they range in different intensities (mild to severe). Some of these include the Major depressions, Bipolar Disorder, Persistent Depressive Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and more. Psychiatrists identify this mental disease by asking the patient common questions in daily life, like “what having you been doing in the past week” or “what makes you happy”.  Nowadays, this illness is getting more and more common in the world, so psychologists have to be very careful in identifying the right type in a case. This is where a computer would help with the process of predicting depression.

Recently, some Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) discovered a way for Artificial Intelligence (AI) to detect any symptoms of depression through a natural conversation with the patient. These researchers include Tuka Alhanai and James Glass at CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) and Mohammad Ghassemi at IMES (Institute for Medical Engineering and Science). They used a neural-network AI model that can identify speech patterns from audio and text transcriptions from interviews. After collecting data from 142 real patient interviews, they were able to sequence a program in the AI for depression. Now, the technology can listen as the patient answer the questionnaire, find similar answers from the programmed interviews, and identify the type and intensity of the depression.

I decided to do some research on this topic because a friend of mine was diagnosed with depression last year and dropped out of school. The doctor didn’t realize at first that his aggressive actions and sad mood were due to it. He finally got the treatments after a whole year of mental pain. Not only did my friend experience the disorder, but many people around the world are also suffering due to the increasing stress level in today’s society. The research at MIT can really help in identifying the illness more efficiently.

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