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Computer System Could Help with Understanding, Treatment of Depression

Researchers in Australia are examining whether information technology can be used to improve the diagnosis and treatment of depression. Maja Hadzic, Fedja Hadzic, and Tharam Dillon of the Digital Ecosystems and Business Intelligence Institute, at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia, write that the World Health Organization predicts that depression will be the world’s leading cause of disability by 2020. They noted that there is a world-wide spread of depression, but that unlike other epidemics such as H1N1, there is no pathogen associated with depression.

Because the causes of depression have not been identified and depression often is associated with other conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, information technology could help with early diagnosis and the development of more efficient treatments.

The researchers created a system that uses three kinds of patient data as well as data describing mental health of therapists and their interactions with patients. The system can be data-mined so that patterns can be detected in the onset and treatment of depression. The data describing patients’ activities and feelings and the data describing the mental health of therapists will be mined to reveal interesting patterns, according to the researchers.

The patterns will help improve people’s understanding of depression, and could give health care experts new ways to prevent and treat depression, according to the researchers. They note that no two cases of depression are the same, and that patients will receive individualized care. The system will help therapists make evidence-based decisions, and will help researchers better examine the causes of depression and develop more effective treatment methods.

Source: Science Daily, Information Technology Could Improve Prevention, Treatment of Depression, December 6, 2010

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