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Using technology to prevent manic episodes in bipolar patients

Last month, we wrote a blog post discussing how technological advancements are working to help people suffering from Parkinson's disease. In that post, which can be found here, we explored some of the new possibilities and opportunities that are being developed to help prevent or identify physical or psychological conditions in an effort to improve treatment and care.

Recently, a psychiatrist announced that yet another technological development is being tested that could predict and prevent health concerns in people with a different type of illness: bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that involves severe mood changes. Sufferers swing between depression and manic episodes, which can make people unpredictable, dangerous and even suicidal. Many people who suffer from untreated bipolar disorder are unable to lead a consistent and stable lifestyle. This can make it nearly impossible to care for themselves and hold down a job. 

One psychiatrist has developed a smartphone app that could help bipolar patients predict manic or suicidal episodes by listening to speech patterns. The app records a person's phone conversation once a day and sends the recording to a doctor. The doctor listens for signs of mania or depression, such as rapid speech or long pauses, to try and predict (and prevent) an episode. The product is still being tested, but it could prove to be an effective tool for helping people who suffer from this condition.

This resource can change the way in which people with bipolar disorder, and similar illnesses, are able to function on a daily basis. With advanced notice, people can prevent manic or depressive episodes that put their lives or health in danger. This could dramatically improve a person's quality of life and help to keep a condition manageable. 

Source: NPR, "Phone App Might Predict Manic Episodes In Bipolar Disorder," Joe Palca, May 31, 2014

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