Thinking Tech

Scientists developing mobile phone that detects depression

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Scientists at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine have been testing a mobile phone that detects when its users are depressed and responds with suggestions.

Image Credit: Flickr / Joi Ito

Scientists at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine have been testing a mobile phone that detects when its users are depressed and responds with suggestions. The phone, named Mobilyze!, is not yet available but trial testing has found promising results.

The phone uses sensor data to detect a person's whereabouts and social context. It also uses an accelerometer to measure their activity level. After monitoring behavior patterns, the phone can detect whether its user is isolated--and respond by sending suggestions to contact friends, for example. A pilot study found that the technology reduced symptoms of depression.

"By prompting people to increase behaviors that are pleasurable or rewarding, we believe that Mobilyze! will improve mood," said David Mohr, director of the new Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies and a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern’s Feinberg School. Mobilyze! is one of many projects to design, "web-based, mobile and virtual technologies to treat depression and other mood disorders" at the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies. Scientists are also developing a virtual human therapist, a medicane bottle that reminds patients to take their medicine and informs doctors they need to adjust the dose, and a social network for cancer survivors.

[via Mashable]

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Jenny Wilson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Jenny Wilson is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. She has written for Time.com and Swimming World Magazine and served stints at The American Prospect and The Atlantic Monthly magazines. She is currently pursuing a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure