Smartphone app can detect depression in its users


A Montreal start-up company has developed, an application that can detect depression in people who use it. The next step? Predict depressive episodes.

Installed on a smart phone, the application collects data from the user. “It identifies variance changes in the user to detect signs of depression. The application adapts to each of the users,” says Sylvain Perron, co-founder of the application.

For example, a depressed person will tend to isolate himself or herself. The app will track changes in texting, commuting and calling habits.

One of the important data points is GPS. A typical person has three main places: work, home and [social] life. When a person becomes isolated, the social side will begin to diminish first.

The app was tested with 700 participants from 22 countries, half of whom had depression. “The test lasted several months. It has been concluded that the algorithm can detect at 91% accuracy depression in an individual,” says Sylvain Perron.

The arrival of this technology will revolutionize the diagnosis of clinical depression. Currently, explains Sylvain Perron, the only tool offered and recognized is a paper questionnaire, completed by the patient. The questionnaire identifies the nine symptoms that will diagnose depression and determine its severity.

We  are moving from a paper format that is accepted by psychiatrists and where the person reports the data  him- or herself to an application that compiles data for  on the person’s behalf.  The current way of doing things is like going to the hospital, touching your forehead and saying, “I think I have a fever.” Here , our system is based on real data.

–Sylvain Perron

The primary goal of the application is to support people who suffer from clinical depression and who must “manage their disease,” says Sylvain Perron. He adds that the final diagnosis will be made by a doctor.

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“Our goal, in the near future, is to be able to make predictions, to be able to advise you even before the episode of depression shows up. Several clinical trials are in progress,” concludes Sylvain Perron.

Angie Mahecha

Angie Mahecha, an Engineering Student at the University of Central Florida, is originally from Colombia but has been living in Florida for the past 10 Years.