First off – not all (or even a majority) of people suffering from Schizophrenia will ever become violent. However in a country which suffers the highest level of violence in the Industrialized world, and over 10 times the number of Mass Murders of any other country…Which not coincidentally has the most pathetic mental health system…
Maybe it is time to look at another way to avert the violence. Can we identify and treat those with Mental Illness which are likely to become violent?
I haven’t taken time to calculate the numbers – but it also seems that a disproportionate number of people killed by the Police are in fact folks suffering from mental disease – specifically Schizophrenia who are 14 times more likely to suffer violence than non-sufferers of the disease.
The Virginia Tech Shooter had been diagnosed with severe psychotic breaks (Schizophrenia) but was still allowed to obtain the weapon with which he shot and killed several dozen of his classmates. Most research indicates he was an outlier in terms of violent behavior.
Should we, as a society examine ways to predict violent actions, and deny those folks access to guns? Admittedly, this is a thorny Constitutional and legal question.
A new study finds an algorithmic word analysis is flawless at determining whether a person will have a psychotic episode.
Although the language of thinking is deliberate—let me think, I have to do some thinking—the actual experience of having thoughts is often passive. Ideas pop up like dandelions; thoughts occur suddenly and escape without warning. People swim in and out of pools of thought in a way that can feel, paradoxically, mindless.
Most of the time, people don’t actively track the way one thought flows into the next. But in psychiatry, much attention is paid to such intricacies of thinking. For instance, disorganized thought, evidenced by disjointed patterns in speech, is considered a hallmark characteristic of schizophrenia. Several studies of at-risk youths have found that doctors are able to guess with impressive accuracy—the best predictive models hover around 79 percent—whether a person will develop psychosis based on tracking that person’s speech patterns in interviews.
A computer, it seems, can do better.
That’s according to a study published Wednesday by researchers at Columbia University, the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center in the Nature Publishing Group journal Schizophrenia. They used an automated speech-analysis program to correctly differentiate—with 100-percent accuracy—between at-risk young people who developed psychosis over a two-and-a-half year period and those who did not. The computer model also outperformed other advanced screening technologies, like biomarkers from neuroimaging and EEG recordings of brain activity.
“In our study, we found that minimal semantic coherence—the flow of meaning from one sentence to the next—was characteristic of those young people at risk who later developed psychosis,” said Guillermo Cecchi, a biometaphorical-computing researcher for IBM Research, in an email. “It was not the average. What this means is that over 45 minutes of interviewing, these young people had at least one occasion of a jarring disruption in meaning from one sentence to the next. As an interviewer, if my mind wandered briefly, I might miss it. But a computer would pick it up.”
Researchers used an algorithm to root out such “jarring disruptions” in otherwise ordinary speech. Their semantic analysis measured coherence and two syntactic markers of speech complexity—including the length of a sentence and how many clauses it entailed. “When people speak, they can speak in short, simple sentences. Or they can speak in longer, more complex sentences, that have clauses added that further elaborate and describe the main idea,” Cecchi said. “The measures of complexity and coherence are separate and are not correlated with one another. However, simple syntax and semantic incoherence do tend to aggregate together in schizophrenia.”Here’s an example of a sentence, provided by Cecchi and revised for patient confidentiality, from one of the study’s participants who later developed psychosis:
I was always into video games. I mean, I don’t feel the urge to do that with this, but it would be fun. You know, so the one block thing is okay. I kind of lied though and I’m nervous about going back.
While the researchers conclude that language processing appears to reveal “subtle, clinically relevant mental-state changes in emergent psychosis,” their work poses several outstanding questions. For one thing, their sample size of 34 patients was tiny. Researchers are planning to attempt to replicate their findings using transcripts from a larger cohort of at-risk youths.
They’re also working to contextualize what their findings might mean more broadly. “We know that thought disorder is an early core feature of schizophrenia evident before psychosis onset,” said Cheryl Corcoran, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University. “The main question then is: What are the brain mechanisms underlying this abnormality in language? And how might we intervene to address it and possibly improve prognosis? Could we improve the concurrent language problems and function of children and teenagers at risk, and either prevent psychosis or at least modify its course?”
Intervention has long been the goal. And so far it has been an elusive one. Clinicians are already quite good at identifying people who are at increased risk of developing schizophrenia, but taking that one step farther and determining which of those people will actually end up having the illness remains a huge challenge…More…