Eavesdropping A.I. Could Help Doctors Diagnose Schizophrenia


A company has figured out how to record someone’s conversations, analyze that data, and use it to figure out the likelihood of that person having a mental illness. Now it wants to use that technology in a smartphone app or in the Amazon Echo smart speaker to help psychiatrists diagnose their patients quickly and accurately.

NeuroLex Diagnostics chief executive Jim Schwoebel has already received an award from the American Psychiatric Association for this idea. Now he’s attempting to turn it into an actual product.

NeuroLex’s technologies work by analyzing someone’s speech for distinct patterns associated with mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression; developmental disorders like autism; chronic issues like high pain or fatigue; and life-threatening problems like strokes or Alzheimer’s disease.

The concept is similar to an earlier study conducted on 34 at-risk children which accurately predicted five of them would develop psychoses by using algorithms to analyze their speech.

NeuroLex differs in that it wants to use devices that many people already own to record and analyze the speech. This could allow it to reach more people, and while the company warns that the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t yet given it a stamp of approval, it could still assist trained psychiatrists with evaluations.

This makes NeuroLex a bit like the growing trend of mental health apps. The main difference is that it’s a tool for psychiatrists instead of an app claiming it can replace medical professionals.

Tech often has an adverse effect on someone’s mental health. But if NeuroLex succeeds in its mission, tech could also help people with mental disorders that might otherwise have gone undiscovered.

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