AI can detect depression in children’s speech

Washington: Scientists have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can detect signs of anxiety and depression in the speech patterns of young children. According to the research published in the Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics, the tool potentially provides a fast and easy way of diagnosing conditions that are difficult to spot and often overlooked in young people. Around one in five children suffer from anxiety and depression, collectively known as ‘internalising disorders’.

However, since children under the age of eight can not reliably articulate their emotional suffering, adults need to be able to infer their mental state, and recognise potential mental health problems. Waiting lists for appointments with psychologists, insurance issues, and failure to recognise the symptoms by parents all contribute to children missing out on vital treatment. “We need quick, objective tests to catch kids when they are suffering,” said Ellen McGinnis, a clinical psychologist at the University of Vermont in the US.

“The majority of kids under eight are undiagnosed,” said McGinnis, lead author of the study. Early diagnosis is critical because children respond well to treatment while their brains are still developing, but if they are left untreated they are at greater risk of substance abuse and suicide later in life. Researchers have been looking for ways to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to make diagnosis faster and more
reliable. —ANI

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