Many smartphones use motion sensors to offer users feedback about their fitness and health, but a new generation of apps currently under development in the U.S. could also diagnose mental health issues by analzsing individuals’ speech patterns and social activity. 

Research published last by scientists from the University of Maryland found that patients’ vocal patterns change as feelings of depression worsen, and that software could be used to perform a rough diagnosis — rather than relying solely on individuals’ self-reporting problems. Lead acoustician Carol Espy-Wilson and her team analyzed data from a 2007 study and found that patients at their lowest ebb tended to have breathier and slower speech with increased ‘jitter’ and ‘shimmer’ — variations in pitch and loudness respectively.

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