Computer Technology

In this rapidly changing world, keeping up with the future of technology is imperative. Today, there are many efforts to address mental health through smartphone apps. Through the discreet and continuous recording of social and physical behavior, these apps can detect changes in mental well-being, deliver micro-interventions when and where needed, and give patients a new awareness of their own illnesses. In the long run, they may even diminish the stigma attached to mental health disorders.

The Prechter Program’s research projects are ever-evolving — and the use of technology in our research enables us to gather information and interact with our participants like never before. We collaborate with innovative scientists from the University of Michigan and other leading institutions around the world to develop groundbreaking technology and applications that can be used to have a positive effect on individuals suffering from bipolar mood episodes.

Our PRIORI (Predicting Individual Outcomes for Rapid Intervention) voice patterns study is gaining momentum. In this study, we use cutting-edge technology via a cell phone app to detect voice pattern changes that can predict changes of mood in persons diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

One of the main symptoms of bipolar disorder is changes in speech. During mania, speech increases in rate, rhythm and volume. During depression, the opposite occurs.

The purpose of the PRIORI study is to use special computer software to analyze the sound waves of speech and identify changes that may happen before a mood episode. The hope is that predicting mood changes with significant time to intervene will go a long way toward preventing prolonged episodes of mania and depression, and even suicide.

This technology is being used in a variety of different research studies: 

■ A multidisciplinary team from Brown University and the University of Michigan has come together to advance screening capabilities for suicide risk. Using PRIORI, researchers are recording and analyzing changes in speech patterns of research participants to identify how they relate to changes in suicide risk.
■ The University of Michigan has received an R21 to investigate whether the same changes in speech found prior to mood episodes in the English language can be detected in other languages. This study is looking at the Arabic language.
■ In the study “Self-Management Apps for Bipolar Disorder,” PRIORI is being integrated with a self-learning app for bipolar disorder called LifeGoals. The apps are designed to enhance the ability of individuals with bipolar disorder to self-manage their symptoms. This study is targeted toward individuals with bipolar disorder on Medicaid who use community mental health organizations for their care.


"The question isn’t whether or not this technology is going to be used in healthcare and monitoring individuals with psychiatric illnesses. The question is really: How?"

-Melvin McInnis, M.D., Principal Investigator and Scientific Director
Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program