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Mixed reactions on the development of digital biomarkers and growth of Mindstrong Health

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(More on the pos­i­tive side, at MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review) The smart­phone app that can tell you’re depressed before you know it your­self:

There are about 45 mil­lion peo­ple in the US alone with a men­tal ill­ness, and those ill­ness­es and their cours­es of treat­ment can vary tremen­dous­ly. But there is some­thing most of those peo­ple have in com­mon: a smart­phone

Mind­strong Health is using a smart­phone app to col­lect mea­sures of people’s cog­ni­tion and emo­tion­al health as indi­cat­ed by how they use their phones. Once a patient installs Mindstrong’s app, it mon­i­tors things like the way the per­son types, taps, and scrolls while using oth­er apps. This data is encrypt­ed and ana­lyzed remote­ly using machine learn­ing, and the results are shared with the patient and the patient’s med­ical provider.

The seem­ing­ly mun­dane minu­ti­ae of how you inter­act with your phone offers sur­pris­ing­ly impor­tant clues to your men­tal health, accord­ing to Mindstrong’s research—revealing, for exam­ple, a relapse of depression…If Mindstrong’s method works, it could be the first that man­ages to turn the tech­nol­o­gy in your pock­et into the key to help­ing patients with a wide range of chron­ic brain disorders—and may even lead to ways to diag­nose them before they start.”

(More on the skep­tic side, at Nature) Hap­py with a 20% chance of sad­ness:

At this stage, the reli­a­bil­i­ty of mood-pre­dic­tion tech­nol­o­gy is unclear. Few results have been pub­lished, and groups that have released results say they have achieved only mod­er­ate rather than out­stand­ing accu­ra­cy when it comes to fore­cast­ing moods…(researchers) have reser­va­tions about pos­si­ble down­sides of their cre­ations. They wor­ry that sci­en­tists and clin­i­cians haven’t thought enough about how to inform users of an immi­nent emo­tion­al down­turn. There are also ques­tions about whether such warn­ings could cause harm. And some won­der whether cor­po­ra­tions or insur­ance com­pa­nies might use the tech­nol­o­gy to track the future men­tal health of their employ­ees or cus­tomers. “The [poten­tial for] mis­use of this tech­nol­o­gy is what keeps me up at night,” Dagum says…

A few bad actors who mis­use this tech­nol­o­gy could spoil the ben­e­fits for patients with seri­ous men­tal-health issues,” says Insel. Mind­strong, he says, is work­ing with a bioethics group at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, Cal­i­for­nia and plans to pub­lish a paper on these mat­ters short­ly.”

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Health & Wellness, Technology

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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