ICT for Mental Health

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Depression is the third leading contributor to global diseases, and depressive mood state is also considered to be strictly related to the onset or worsening of a severe primary somatic disease. Our research focuses on early assessment of human mental health through analysis of behavioral and physiological signals, also devising ad-hoc cutting-edge, advanced biomedical signal processing and artificial intelligence techniques.

Bipolar Disorder is a chronic psychiatric condition that is considered one of the most common and dangerous disorders of affectivity (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR)).

People suffering from Bipolar disease manifest extremely altered mood regulation. They usually experience unbalanced mood swings among depression, mania or hypomania, and mixed states (that is a state in which both symptoms of depression and hypomania are present at the same time). Such swings can be cyclic and sometimes extreme.

Normally, these mood changes can have a significant impact on the patients' social, occupational, and general functioning and wellbeing. The patients' quality of life can be severely affected by such swings, even during the time periods in which they are free of clinical relevant symptomatology. Such reduction in quality of life can also be related to a significant loss of cognitive performance. Other symptoms such as somatic pain or functional symptoms (headache, dyspepsia, etc.) can be also frequent.

Moreover, this kind of patients often experience anxiety, associated with suicide attempts, lifetime alcohol abuse, and psychosis. Suicide, in fact, may occur in up to 20% of the cases.

Depression is a very low mood state characterized by sadness and hopelessness. Depressed patients might also experience thoughts of ruin, guilt or death. Differently, mania is a state of hyper-arousal that leads to euphoria or irritability, excessive energy, hyperactivity, hypertrophic self-esteem, and a reduction of the need of sleep. Maniacal patients usually express an increased activity and accelerated thoughts, but rather than being a positive condition, these affects cause attention loss and prevent the patient from expressing a coherent mental stream of thoughts. Hyperactivity is often not finalized and patients switching from task to task are not able to complete any activity.

Instead, hypomania is the moderate form of mania. Finally, the euthymic state is a period in which patients do not show enough pathological signs to be considered in one of the above-mentioned clinical states. In the mixed state, since patients share symptoms of both mania and depression, they can be hyperactive but have insomnia, have an increased self-esteem but also thoughts of inadequacy, and so on. Such a disease can therefore be associated with frequent devastating personal, social and vocational consequences.

Bipolar disorder is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. According to some epidemiological studies performed in United States, almost 15% of the US population has suffered from at least one episode of mood alteration, and more than two million Americans have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In the United States it was estimated an annual cost of $45 billion. Moreover, it has been estimated that about 27% (equals 82.7 million; 95% confidence interval: 78.5-87.1) of the adult European population, from 18 to 65 years of age, is or has been affected by at least one mental disorder. Despite high managing costs and the high severity of this disease, in current clinical practice the diagnosis of bipolar disease relies only on interviews and scores from psychological questionnaires, on the physician's own expertise, and on the patient's subjective description of the symptoms. Another important characteristics involved with such pathology is the comorbidity, i.e., the simultaneous presence of symptoms which are shared with other psychiatric disorders. All the mentioned issues associated with bipolar disease may lead to subjective interpretations, inconsistencies, and misdiagnoses.

Figure 1: http://www.bestsyndication.com/?q=20080820_drug_companies.htm



Computational Physiology & Biomedical Instruments Group, University of Pisa


Feel-ING is a new start-up specialized in developing and implementing innovative Information and Communication Technology solutions for the optimization of the psychophysical performance and the promotion of wellbeing and mental health