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University of Southern California's Stefan Scherer and Carnegie Mellon University's Louis-Philippe Morency are seeking to use computers to diagnose depression. The researchers believe technology could offer a more reliable way to spot symptoms, and they have used a computer to record and analyze the behavior of people who are depressed, including their speech, facial expressions, and eye movements.

Depressed people's speech is the subject of their latest research, which shows a tendency to run their vowels together when they speak. Although the difference in vowel-space ratio was small compared to normal speech, the researchers say the finding advances their previous work.

Scherer and Morency have developed an algorithm based on factors such as length of smile and frequency in looking at the ground, and report it is 75-percent effective in diagnosing depression. For now, they envision their diagnostic system working with doctors and enhancing patient observation.

From The Economist
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