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Friday, 22 February 2008

Schizophrenia spotter

Schizophrenia spotter

Diagnosing psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and depression is a difficult business – as many as 70% of people who experience a psychosis for the first time are misdiagnosed. So the need for an accurate and objective way of spotting these illnesses is much needed.

John Pettrigrew, professor of physiology at the University of Queensland in Australia, has found a way that this might be done.

His idea is based on a phenomenon that occurs when a viewer is presented with a different visual stimulus for each eye. When this happens, the brain switches from perceiving one image to the other, but patients suffering from conditions such as schizophrenia switch much more rapidly.

Pettigrew has tested this idea for a specific type of image in which two slatted forms or "gratings" are superimposed to form a diamond-shaped pattern. When the gratings move, the viewer sees either the diamond patterns move, or the gratings move relative to each other.

The rate at which the viewer's perception switches from one form of motion to the other can then be used to diagnose mood disorders, or even a predisposition to such a disorder.

Pettigrew has created a device that incorporates the test above, and says it worked well on a limited number of volunteers.

Read the full schizophrenia diagnosis machine patent application.

My comment: In the time of the year when depressions are the worst enemy on the horizon, I'd say this tool is quite cool. Especially if it works not only on limited number of volunteers. But anyway, at least it doesn't electrocute them :)

On the serious side, I just heard on the news that some expect that by 2020, depressions will be the second after the heart diseases on numbers of patients in the world. I find that quite worrying. It looks like we still can't get used to our long and stressful life and that's why we die. Isn't it time we learn to manage our emotions and live even longer? I hope so.

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