NYU Researchers Develop Siri-Like Application to Identify PTSD by Speech Analysis

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Charles R. Marmar, MDThe Lucius N. Littauer Professor Chair of the Department of PsychiatryNYU Langone School of Medicine

Dr. Marmar

Charles R. Marmar, MD
The Lucius N. Littauer Professor
Chair of the Department of Psychiatry
NYU Langone School of Medicine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Several studies in recent years have attempted to identify biological markers that distinguish individuals with PTSD, with candidate markers including changes in brain cell networks, genetics, neurochemistry, immune functioning, and psychophysiology. Despite such advances, the use of biomarkers for diagnosing PTSD remained elusive going into the current study, and no physical marker was applied in the clinic.

Our study is the first to compare speech in an age and gender matched sample of a military population with and without PTSD, in which PTSD was assessed by a clinician, and in which all patients did not have a major depressive disorder. Because measuring voice qualities in non-invasive, inexpensive and might be done over the phone, many labs have sought to design speech-based diagnostic tools 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: This is more about combining a Siri-like tool that can recognize voice features with additional formulas, perhaps someday wrapped into a cell phone app, which can sift through voice features for the 18 linked by the current study PTSD. Families can often tell broadly when a loved one’s voice changes with distress, but the tool aims to be more accurate than that, and specific to PTSD, such as those with the condition experiencing a strong, persistent distress when reminded of a triggering event. Veterans with the condition also often do not like crowds, or going to clinics. Remote, non-invasive, accurate tools could relieve a great deal of suffering. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: What links the current study technique and standard practice in the field is the CAPs interview tool. Clinicians in military clinics currently used this old standard, hours-long diagnostic interview, the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, or CAPS, to help diagnose PTSD.

The new study recorded these specific, technical, 30-facet interviews for 53 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with military-service-related PTSD, as well as for 78 veterans without the disease. The new study then went beyond what a current clinician can do in tabulating a CAPS score (and combining it with other observation, histories, etc.), and fed all that recorded talk, in spurts, into both voice recognition software and AI-driven statistical analysis.

Those with the PTSD talked more slowly (slower tongue movement), were more monotonous with fewer bursts of vocalization, were less animated and energetic (lifeless) in their speech, had longer hesitations and a flatter tone. Each of these general qualities were divided into many facets and analyzed for statistical combinations.

I have no financial ties to companies.

Citation: 

Speech‐based markers for posttraumatic stress disorder in US veterans

Charles R. Marmar, Adam D. Brown, Meng Qian Eugene Laska, Carole Siegel, Meng Li, Duna Abu‐AmaraAndreas TsiartasColleen RicheyJennifer SmithBruce KnothDimitra Vergyri

First published: 22 April 2019

 

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