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A new software predicts the appearance of psychosis by analyzing the language

A new software predicts the appearance of psychosis by analyzing the language

June 19, 2022

It's possible diagnose a serious mental disorder several years after the first symptoms appear ? If so, what implications would it have both in the clinic and for the person at risk of developing them?

In a recently developed study, it was used a speech analysis software to try to predict the risk of psychosis . Throughout this article we will talk about this new computer program that is still in the process of research and development.

  • Related article: "What is psychosis? Causes, symptoms and treatment"

What is psychosis?

In the field of psychology and psychiatry, psychosis refers to a state of mental disturbance or a serious mental disorder in which the person experiences a loss of contact with reality and a diminution of normative social functioning.


This disorder refers to a series of serious disorders, in which the person may manifest hallucinations of all kinds, as well as delusions , alterations in personality and disorganized thinking and language.

In addition, it is possible that this symptomatology is accompanied by unusual or unusual behaviors in the person, as well as problems when establishing and maintaining any type of interaction with other people, obstructing and complicating the day-to-day life of the patient. person.

It is necessary to emphasize that psychosis is not a single mental disorder; but it encompasses all classification of psychiatric conditions known as psychotic disorders. These mental alterations include:


  • Schizophrenia .
  • Delirious disorder
  • Schizophreniform disorder.
  • Schizoaffective disorder.
  • Shared psychotic disorder
  • Substance-induced psychotic disorder .
  • Psychotic disorder due to a medical illness.

What is this software?

As mentioned above, disorganized thinking is one of the main symptoms of psychosis. This, which is externalized through a disorganized speech of the patient can be evaluated through oral clinical interviews with the patient.

This disorganized thinking distinguishes because the patient's speech becomes tangential and a loss of associations of ideas expressed. Therefore the patient can manifest a confused and incoherent speech, in addition to continually jumping from one idea to another.


Following these events, a study conducted in collaboration with the Psychiatric Institute of New York, the Columbia University Medical Center and the Research Center of IBM T.J. Watson, evaluated and compared the transcripts of a series of interviews with young people at risk of developing a psychosis .

During the study, the interviews of 34 participants from New York and 59 participants from the city of Los Angeles, for which the onset of psychosis was estimated during the two years, were evaluated using computer-based speech analysis software. following years.

After the analysis of the interviews, it was discovered that the software managed to differentiate correctly between young people in whom there was a real risk of developing a psychosis and those who did not, in most cases.

According to experts in the analysis of the pathological behavior of people, 1% of the population aged between 14 and 27 years is at serious risk of developing a psychosis. These people tend to manifest a symptomatology such as Uncommon thoughts, tangential discourse, alterations of perception and reactions of suspicion before other people.

Approximately 20% of this risk population will experience a psychotic episode; so early detection accompanied by a psychological intervention could help reduce the impact of this episode or even prevent it.

Speech as a key in detection

Within psychology and psychiatry, both language and behavior provide a lot of key information in the diagnosis of any type of mental disorder.

In the case of psychoses, the patient's oral language is a great source of information about what happens in the person's mind. Providing important clues about what the person experiences, feels and perceives.

In the study referenced above, patients were asked to narrate their subjective experiences . These conversations were then transcribed and analyzed using speech assessment software.

According to the researchers, this software analyzed the patterns of expression, semantics and syntax used by the participant.As well as the length of the sentences and the correct use of the words used to link the expressions.

It is necessary to specify that a clinical psychiatrist or mental health professional is able to recognize these signs or symptoms manually, through a face-to-face interview with the patient. However, the development of this software implies an increase in precision when taking into account more variables and in a more rigorous way.

What were the results of the study?

Once the interviews and the analysis of these were carried out, the participants were followed up over two and a half years.

The examiners who developed the study found a number of key qualities or features in conversations that predicted future mental problems in 83% of cases .

Specifically, those features of oral language that helped predict the beginning of psychosis were alterations in the flow of meaning between sentences. Highlighting mostly shorter sentences than usual and with much less elaboration.

After these results, researchers place their hope that thanks to this software you can make early and reliable detections of those more subtle symptoms that may even appear many years before the psychotic disorder develops.

Implications of this software in clinical practice

Within the field of clinical diagnosis within psychology and psychiatry, the possibility of using a computer program that helps and facilitates the early detection of serious mental disorders is very good news.

In this way, diagnostic and prognostic work on serious mental illnesses can be accelerated, and design proposals for treatment and early intervention that decrease the impact of the symptoms. In addition, other advantages that researchers assign to this software is that this analysis is done quickly, innocuously and with very low economic costs.

However, the researchers themselves warn that only one prototype is treated and research time is still required to turn it into a completely reliable diagnostic tool.


Matthew Walker: "Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams" | Talks at Google (June 2022).


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