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Computer Game and AI Techniques Will Boost Mental Health Treatments

Mental Health Treatments

A team of researchers led by CSIRO’s Data61, the data and digital specialist arm of Australia’s national science agency, have developed a novel technique that could assist psychiatrists and other clinicians to diagnose and characterise complex mental health disorders, potentially enabling more effective treatments.

By using a simple computer game and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, the researchers were reportedly able to identify behavioural patterns in subjects with depression and bipolar disorder, down to subtle individual differences in each group.

The Study

There were 101 participants in the study: 34 with depression, 33 with bipolar disorder, and a control group of 34 subjects. The computer game presents individuals with two choices and tracks their behaviour as they respond.

The complex data collected from the game is analysed through artificial neural networks, which are brain-inspired systems intended to replicate the way that humans learn. The artificial neural networks are able to disentangle the nuanced behavioural differences between healthy individuals, and those with depression or bipolar disorder.

Computational Psychiatry for Mental Health Treatment

  • The lead author of the research, a neuroscientist and machine learning expert at the Agency, explained that the research represented a possible step-change in the emerging field of computational psychiatry.
  • 69% of bipolar patients are initially misdiagnosed. Around one-third of these patients may remain misdiagnosed for 10 years or more.
  • Understanding how the brain works will allow for the development of more accurate processes for diagnosis and more effective treatments for people with mental health disorders.
  • Artificial intelligence and deep learning techniques can analyse complex datasets and make accurate models of the brain processes involved in psychiatric disorders.
  • Characterising mental health disorders in granular detail will give clinicians the opportunity to develop more personalised treatment plans based on an individual’s unique diagnosis.
  • Clinicians around the world mainly rely on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which provide a set of criteria for the diagnosis of mental health disorders.
  • Unlike traditional mental health assessment, the computer game provides results, which directly reflect the brain processes that are affected due to the disorders.
  • This is because individuals are responding to stimuli instead of direct questions about their mental state.

Artificial Intelligence for Healthcare

  • AI is a powerful general purpose technology with the potential to help solve some of the greatest challenges relating to health, energy, ageing, safety, security, climate and the environment.
  • Although AI holds enormous potential, it must be deployed with privacy, ethics and inclusiveness at its core.
  • There is a need to design systems that deliver benefits.
  • Organisations recognise that the hybrid cloud model for artificial Intelligence, for instance, gives them the flexibility to explore new business opportunities.
  • For this project, the artificial neural network was specifically designed to produce interpretable results, and will augment the capabilities of clinicians and psychiatrists.
  • The researchers are looking to partner with hospitals and mental health research centres to conduct further research to validate the technique for real-world use, providing decision support for clinicians.


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