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Tapping the potential of vocal biomarkers to study depression

A biomarker is a measurable characteristic that can be an indicator of health and well-being.
Conventionally, biomarkers have been used in medical research but there have always been questions
on the untapped potential of certain biomarkers such as vocal samples or face expressions, and the
possible contribution they can make in the study of mental health disorders such as depression.

Widely prevalent (estimated as affecting 300 million globally 1 ) yet not completely understood and often
left untreated due to lack of awareness, depression has been known to lead to serious health
complications and at times the loss of precious lives.

In a path-breaking initiative to understand depression better, a team of researchers from MIT sought to
conduct a study that involved capturing vocal biomarkers from a diverse set of participants, in the
convenience of their natural environment. BTC worked with the MIT team to design and build a cross-
platform hybrid mobile app that would administer surveys and voice-capture tasks to participants across
a wide range of demographics. The app makes it easy for people to take part in the study from any
location and provide valuable data for research.

Whether it was the study’s vision, the domain knowledge needed or the technology used to make it
happen (Ionic ResearchKit and integration with Girder), this project proved to truly be in the ‘BTCian
space’!

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