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University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships
University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships

Using Smartphones to Improve Bipolar Treatment


In a given year, over 20 million people, or 9% of American adults, are affected by bipolar or major depressive disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Despite the number of people impacted by these illnesses, very little technology is on the market that has been shown to be effective in the prediction and treatment of bipolar or depressive episodes.

Researchers who are part of the University of Michigan’s Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund are looking to change that by developing a first-of-its-kind mobile technology, PRIORI. Using a voice analysis algorithm developed by a team led by Emily Mower Provost of the College of Engineering and meta data collected from a user’s phone, research is underway to test whether PRIORI can alert caregivers to potential manic or depressive episodes. The implications of this technology are profound: with early detection and timely intervention, substantial medical, personal, and vocational costs will be avoided.

“We’re looking to predict health states in a passive manner based patterns of speech and behavior from mobile device usage,” explained Dr. Melvin Mcinnis, Thomas B and Nancy Upjohn Woodworth Professor of Psychiatry, and Principal Investigator of the PRIORI Project. “Others in this market are looking at a variety of ways to address the same challenges that we’re researching, but we are the only group collecting and analyzing daily speech along with data use patterns”. There’s a real opportunity for PRIORI because it’s passive and doesn’t require anything in addition to someone going about their day-to-day.”

Being rooted at the University of Michigan is also a benefit to PRIORI. “Our research is firmly based on rigorous academic research, anchored in the computer and clinical translational sciences, ” added McInnis. “Although promising results are at hand, a good amount of fundamental research remains.”

With help from U-M Innovation Partnerships, PRIORI has been able to thinking through what is known as “the valley of death” for new enterprises – negotiating the path for new ideas to commercialization. “With help, advice, and opportunities to network, PRIORI is crossing this chasm, and we’re well-positioned for our next step of seeking grant and other funding to bring our technology into the healthcare arena.