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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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