Exeter, Devon UK • May 18, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Science Video games that can help diagnose, monitor and treat depression

Video games that can help diagnose, monitor and treat depression

Katie Jones discusses a new AI technology that could be used to help depression and the current waiting list crisis for mental health support
5 mins read
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Video games that can help diagnose, monitor and treat depression

Katie Jones discusses a new AI technology that could be used to help depression and the current waiting list crisis for mental health support

Can video games be used to help doctors in the diagnosis and treatment of depression? New platform Thymia seems to indicate yes. The AI technology analyses a patient’s eye movement, voice, and gameplay to make a diagnosis in weeks rather than the months or years a correct diagnosis can take currently. CEO and co-founder Dr Emilia Molimpakis said, “our technology will empower clinicians to assess and treat depression sooner, whilst allowing patients to develop a deeper understanding of their own condition.”

The current official waiting list for NHS mental health care stands at 1.6 million people, however there are an estimated 8 million people with mental health issues who cannot get access to help. The pandemic has had the dual impact of stretching staff and services as well as increasing the number of people seeking care, further impacting mental health services. NHS providers cite underfunding as a hurdle to clearing the current backlog of patients. According to the mental health charity, Mind, three per cent of the UK population have depression whilst the WHO estimate the global figure is approaching 5 per cent.

Official waiting list for NHS mental health care stands at 1.6 million people … an estimated 8 million people with mental health issues cannot get access to help

Thymia, works by comparing the behaviour of a patient to that of thousands of anonymised individuals. The video games are based on neuropsychology protocols and look for the cognitive patterns that may indicate depression – such as reaction time and error rates. After baseline assessment on the Thymia platform patients will visit clinicians who, based on the meeting and Thymia output, make a diagnosis and intervention plan. It can also be used to monitor changes in the patient’s condition over time which can be used to identify which treatments are and are not working.

The platform is not without its sceptics. Speaking to Sky News, consultant clinical psychologist Dr Lucy Johnstone expressed how she did not believe Thymia provided the solution to diagnosis wait times. She said, “What we need to out more is the reasons people are feeling the way they are. We actually need a human being sitting down and asking you more about those events in your lives.”

The ethics of the platform are also of major consideration for the developers. Dr Molimpakis said to the Evening Standard, “we need to tread very, very carefully” when it comes to AI and that we “must always have a human factor” involved. Her hope is that the technology will become a household name for both clinicians and patients.

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