How AI and Machine Learning are Aiding Schizophrenia Research

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In the U.S. about 20 percent of adults suffer from a mental health condition, ranging from depression to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia, and about half of those with severe psychiatric disorders receive no treatment. While early identification, diagnosis, and treatment for patients with psychosis tends to mean improved outcomes, there continues to be significant barriers in achieving this. For schizophrenia, there is no medical testing that can provide an absolute diagnosis; this can mean significant delay before a symptomatic person is successfully diagnosed.

A computer model of the human brain, a “brain template.”

Earlier this year, IBM scientists collaborated with researchers at the University of Alberta and the IBM Alberta Centre for Advanced Studies (CAS) to publish new research regarding the use of AI and machine learning algorithms to predict instances of schizophrenia with a 74 percent accuracy. The research also shows a further capability to predict the severity of specific symptoms in schizophrenia patients – something that was not possible before. Using AI and machine learning, ‘computational psychiatry’ can be used to help clinicians more quickly assess – and therefore treat – patients with schizophrenia.

Computational psychiatry provides physicians with tools that enable them to objectively assess patients where most approaches had been subjective up until that point. In this schizophrenia research, we have learned that powerful technology can be used to predict the likelihood of a previously-unseen patient having schizophrenia. For the first time, clinicians could be able to quantitatively determine the severity of common symptoms and even identify and measure the progression of the disease, as well as the effectiveness of treatment.

This kind of innovative collaboration is just one example of the work being done between IBM and the University of Alberta through the IBM Alberta Centre for Advanced Studies. For more than a decade, the Centre’s unique public/private approach to research has become an example at a global level of how teaming world-class scientists and researchers can drive greater discovery and progression of disruptive technologies to address some of our greatest challenges.

As part of the ongoing relationship, research teams will continue to investigate areas and connections in the brain that hold significant links to schizophrenia, and also explore ways to extend these techniques to other psychiatric disorders, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

IBM has always recognized that investment in research and development is an important driver in solving some of our greatest global health problems, and this research is indicative of that commitment. It is a real example of innovation that matters.



steve zehner

July 21st, 2017

Are we exploiting IBM Power with nVidia in IBM research engagements with AI since it is so much faster and a more open platform than Intel?

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Ross Webb

July 23rd, 2017

Great to see IBM participating and supporting research efforts in mental illness .

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Sancia Matthyssen

July 24th, 2017

Very happy to see this type of work being taken on. Mental illness is not just a number or a percentage of the population, it affects those around the person who suffers also. It is so hard to diagnose exactly what a person may suffer from, what part of the brain, which medication will work for an individual – so mental illness continues to take life (and the value of life) away from hundreds of thousands of people. I hope that IBM can take a larger role in solving some of the mystery around proper diagnosis through its research on machine learning and AI, and perhaps apply it to social media to identify those that need help before it is too late.

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Joanne Paulo

July 24th, 2017

Great to see IBM performing research in this area.

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July 21, 2017 at 10:03AM