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Computers Can Predict Schizophrenia Based on How a Person Talks


A woman speaking.

Researchers have developed a new algorithmic analysis technique that identifies the disjointed patterns of speech that predict psychosis with 100-percent accuracy.

Credit: Causecast.com

Disjointed patterns of speech are recognized as a hallmark of schizophrenia, and several studies have found doctors can use such speech patterns to predict whether or not a person will develop psychosis with about 79-percent accuracy.  However, a new algorithmic analysis technique is even better at using speech patterns to predict psychosis.  

Researchers at Columbia University, the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center used an automated speech-analysis program to predict, with 100-percent accuracy, whether or not at-risk young people would develop psychosis over the next two-and-a-half years. The program searched transcripts of their interviews with doctors for incidents of disorganized speech.

"In our study, we found that minimal semantic coherence--the flow of meaning from one sentence to the next--was characteristic of those young people at risk who later developed psychosis," says IBM researcher Guillermo Cecchi.  

The study did have limitations--the sample size was only 34 people and it examined only written transcripts.  The researchers hope larger studies and analyses that also take into account other features such as a patient's intonation, volume, and cadence could yield even more revealing results.

From The Atlantic
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