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World Health Day: Machine learning to help diagnose depression

Posted on 04-07-2017 Posted in Depression, Depression Rehab - 0 Comments

The World Health Day (WHD), which is observed on April 7, aims at drawing people’s attention toward the importance of global health. An annual event, it provides an opportunity for every community in the world to take initiatives that can lead to better health. The WHD also marks the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO), which came into being in 1948 on this day.

Every year, WHD has a special theme to draw attention to a current world health issue. The theme for this year is “Depression: Let’s talk.” Depression, the leading cause of ill health and disability, affects more than 300 million people worldwide. This year, the goal of the campaign is that more people with depression seek and get help.

Like other parts of the world, depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. According to the National institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in 2015, more than 16 million people aged 18 years or older in the country had at least one major depressive episode in the previous year. While researches have often been done to find treatment for this life-threatening condition, they are now looking at ways to identify those vulnerable to the illness prior to its onset.

According to a new study done by researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, machine learning with a supercomputer may help identify people vulnerable to depression. While researchers have often studied mental illness by recognizing the relationship between brain function and structure using neuroimaging data for years, as per David M. Schnyer, study’s lead author, a major difficulty with that work is that it is primarily descriptive. He said that while the brain networks may appear to be different, it does not tell about the patterns that help predict the group that one might fall in. Through this study, the researchers looked at diagnostic measures predictive for outcomes such as susceptibility to depression or dementia.

Use of MRI technique

During the study published online in the journal Psychiatry Research on March 22, 2017, basis magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, the machine learning system was able to identify individuals with a depressive disorder with nearly 75 percent accuracy. By using support vector machine (SVM) learning, the researchers analyzed brain data from 52 individuals who sought treatment for depression and 45 healthy control participants.

To classify depressed or vulnerable individuals versus healthy controls, participants received diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) MRI scans. The DTI-MRI technique is used to create images of internal organs through magnetic images. By isolating water movement within the brain, the technique allows doctors to isolate non-functioning regions in the brain. As per the findings, DTI-derived fractional anisotropy maps could accurately classify depressed or vulnerable individuals. The results also revealed that rather than being highly localized, predictive information was distributed across brain networks.

Next on the researchers’ agenda is to try to improve upon the algorithm using the university’s Stampede 2 supercomputer at Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) that will further allow them to include data from volunteers from the Austin area diagnosed with mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Road to recovery

A common but serious mood disorder, depression causes several symptoms that affect how one feels, thinks or behaves. As it can be difficult to deal with the depressive symptoms alone, with proper treatment, one is able to better control their symptoms and triggers causing it.

Sovereign Health offers behavioral treatment for men and women with mental disorders, substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. To treat mental disorders such as depression, Sovereign Health of Florida offers evidence-based therapy and interventions. We offer a comprehensive treatment to all our patients that include medication, therapy or both. For more information about causes of depression and symptoms of depression, please call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-269-2493. Chat online with our representatives to know more about our finest depression treatment centers near you.


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