Australia’s Medibio, which is working on an objective test for the diagnosis of mental health disorders, reported promising results for a noninvasive diagnostic tool for post-traumatic stress disorder.
PTSD affects 3.5% of the U.S. adult population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But this figure jumps dramatically in veterans, to anywhere between 11% and 30%, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
PTSD diagnosis, like that of other mental health disorders, depends on patient-reported and physician-observed symptoms. In order to be diagnosed with PTSD, a patient must experience four different types of symptoms for at least one month. Medibio seeks to “revolutionize” the diagnosis and treatment of mental health with noninvasive, quick, and objective diagnostic tests for PTSD and other disorders.
The Melbourne-based company initially partnered with Emory University in January to develop and test its algorithms for the diagnosis of PTSD using heart rate data. The 48-patient study objectively differentiated patients with PTSD from patients without PTSD 80% of the time.
Funded by Medibio and conducted at Emory University, the study is published in the June issue of Physiological Measurement. The team collected 24 hours of heart-rate data from the participants using single-channel ECG. Twenty-three of them were known to have PTSD, while the other 25 had no history of the disorder.
The researchers developed a classifier based on measures of heart rate and heart rate variability to differentiate between individuals with and without PTSD. Heart rate variability can indicate changes in the function of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates unconscious body functions, such as digestion and heartbeat.
“Our approach of estimating PTSD status from Heart Rate Variability features is noninvasive, automatic, objective, and potentially useful for monitoring progression and/or improvement of a condition,” the researchers wrote in the paper. “Future studies could evaluate if this classifier reflects changes with effective treatment and resolution of PTSD.”
Medibio has licensed the tech from Emory and has the exclusive option and worldwide rights to commercialize products based on this research, the company said in a statement.
Another company working on objective measures for mental health is Mindstrong Health, which recently raised $14 million to flesh out its technology and expand its clinical operations teams. The company, helmed by CEO Paul Dagum, is developing technology that can infer a person’s mental state by analyzing how he or she uses a smartphone.