This smartphone app, called Priori, monitors your behavior. It can listen to your speech, if it starts to becomes very loud, rapid and shifting from topic to topic, as it does in mania, then after collecting all this data, in the future, the app will warn you and your doctor of an impending manic phase or depressive phase. Startup companies, universities, and research clinincs are developing apps that will “Through the discreet and continuous recording of social and physical behavior, these apps can detect changes in mental well-being, deliver micro-interventions when and where needed, and give patients a new awareness of their own illnesses. In the long run, they may even diminish the stigma attached to mental health disorders.”
This can be a wonderful aid to people such as me, who have bipolar d/o and are very aware and cognizant of this fact when they are in a normal phase. But when mania or, to a lesser degree, depression, hits, this awareness goes down and eventually disappears. That is the nature of mania and severe depression, your brain is not functioning well, so it cannot recognize you are sick. That is the ironic and heart breaking part of having mental illness, why people commit suicide… If there is a tool which can help you recognize the fact that you are getting ill when your own brain is unable to do it, then it will help so much in managing bipolar d/o, depression, even schizophrenia. This is one app that I would readily endorse, and I would definitely label it smart!
“BRYAN TIMLIN ALWAYS carries an iPhone and an Android phone.
The 57-year-old is an app and graphic designer with a Michigan company called OptHub, but he doesn’t carry two phones for work. He carries the iPhone because that’s what he likes, and he carries the Android because it’s what he needs.
The Android phone monitors his behavior. Five years ago, Timlin was diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, a mental illness characterized by four or more manic or depressive episodes a year. Some episodes, he says, can last as long as eight weeks. “Being bipolar is like jumping out of an airplane knowing you don’t have a parachute on,” he says. “You know you’re going to be hurt, but the high is so euphoric that it’s worth the risk. You can deal with the consequences later.” With his Android phone, he hopes to deal with these moments in other ways.
At the moment, the app only collects data on his behavior. But the hope is that it eventually will use this information to warn Timlin and his doctor to an impending bipolar episode.The phone, provided by researchers at the University of Michigan, includes an app called Priori that runs constantly in the background, using the phone’s microphone to analyze his voice and track when he is, and isn’t, speaking. Mania is typically marked by speech that’s loud and rapid, often with erratic leaps from topic to topic. Longer pauses or breaks can indicate depression.
Priori is one of many efforts to address mental health through smartphone apps. Tools gestating within startups, academic institutions, and research clinics aim to help people manage everything from severe depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Through the discreet and continuous recording of social and physical behavior, these apps can detect changes in mental well-being, deliver micro-interventions when and where needed, and give patients a new awareness of their own illnesses. In the long run, they may even diminish the stigma attached to mental health disorders.
“The question isn’t whether or not this technology is going to be used in healthcare and monitoring individuals with psychiatric illnesses,” says University of Michigan psychiatrist Melvin McInnis, who developed Priori alongside computer scientists at the university’s College of Engineering. “The question is really: How?”
Most of these apps—which include CrossCheck, from Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, and Companion, from a Boston-based startup called Cogito—aren’t yet publicly available. But some projects have completed trials with small groups of patients, larger trials are underway, and preliminary results are encouraging. These apps are based on objective, contextual data, and they require little work on the part of patients.
But, certainly, there are many hurdles to overcome—most notably the potential for these tools to mislead patients and compromise their privacy. Finding ways of regulating such apps is as important as refining their technology.
“I think this will have a liberating effect, and will extend the boundaries of healthcare in a really enormous way,” says Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, psychiatrist in chief at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. “But there are also ethical and legal principles that will need to be established.”