The Military Wants Better Tests for PTSD. Speech Analysis Could Be the Answer.


The N.Y.U. research checked out 129 male army veterans throughout 32 years outdated who had vital publicity to fight, screening out any who additionally had different issues which may complicate the research, similar to despair or alcohol abuse. Researchers performed a conventional structured interview, generally known as a Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, or CAPS, to determine 52 veterans with PTSD and 77 with out.

Researchers recorded every interview, then fed the audio recordings by way of the speech evaluation software program at SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif. For 5 years a group of scientists there was creating speech software program that may perceive not solely what individuals say, but additionally what feelings are expressed in how they are saying it. The group deconstructed the interviews into 40,526 goal speech-based options that documented tone, variation, pacing and annunciation. This identical course of is used to assist automated customer support packages reply to irate clients.

The knowledge was despatched again to New York, the place Eugene Laska, a statistician within the psychiatry division at N.Y.U., fed it by way of a synthetic intelligence program that searched repeatedly by way of the 1000’s of options till it realized which of them greatest distinguished the sufferers with PTSD. In the top it settled on simply 18.

Patients with PTSD tended to talk in flatter speech, with much less articulation of the tongue and lips and a extra monotonous tone, the researchers reported. “We’ve known for a long time that you can tell how someone is doing from their voice. You don’t have to be a doctor to know when someone is feeling down,” Laska stated. “But this could take some of the fuzziness out of the process, and help clinicians make better decisions.”

Rather than substitute conventional diagnostic interviews, he stated, potential biomarkers would most certainly turn into a software to assist psychologists make tough calls. The outcomes of the research are encouraging, and will be constructed on to create extra refined screening instruments, stated Rachael Yehuda, director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division on the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, however she cautioned that in its present kind, the algorithm could also be of restricted sensible use.

Many sufferers with PTSD arrive on the psychologist’s workplace with a bunch of different issues, together with despair and substance abuse, and it’s unclear how effectively speech evaluation would fare below extra difficult real-life circumstances, Yehuda stated. Also unclear is whether or not the indicators recognized by the algorithm are brought on by PTSD or pre-existing circumstances that make sufferers extra susceptible to the dysfunction, she stated.

“We should be enthusiastic but sober,” she added. “This is an important effort. But mental health conditions are complicated and I suspect there is more work to be done.”

Marmar agreed that the know-how will want extra work earlier than it may be deployed to the sphere, however stated his group hoped to ultimately apply for approval by the Food and Drug Administration. “The advantage of this approach is it’s noninvasive and it will become low cost, and easy to perform,” he stated. “In theory, we could use this assessment on troops anywhere in the world.”



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