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Coming soon: Smartphone that fights depression

gadgets Updated: Feb 09, 2012 17:34 IST
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A new smartphone being developed can spot symptoms of depression in its user and take immediate actions to counter it.

Scientists at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Center are inventing the smartphone as part of other web-based, mobile and virtual technologies to treat depression and other mood disorders.

The phone harnesses all the sensor data within it to interpret a person’s location, activity level (via an accelerometer), social context and mood.

By learning the user’s usual patterns it can sense when he or she is isolated, and it will send suggestions to call or see friends.

The technology, which still is being tweaked, is called Mobilyze! and has been tested in a small pilot study. It helped reduce symptoms of depression.

It offers a powerful new level of support for people who have depression and intervenes to help them change their behaviour in real time.

“By prompting people to increase behaviors that are pleasurable or rewarding, we believe that Mobilyze! will improve mood,” said psychologist David Mohr, Director of the new Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies and a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern’s Feinberg School.

“It creates a positive feedback loop. Someone is encouraged to see friends, then enjoys himself and wants to do it again. Ruminating alone at home has the opposite effect and causes a downward spiral,” he said.