General News Research — 22 April 2014
Heart test to detect mental illness

A RADICAL new medical test will measure patients’ heart rates to determine if they have a mental illness.

The test, which has been ­developed by Australian researchers, could be in use by mid-2015.

It involves analysing a ­patient’s heart rate activity over 24 hours against calculations that have been created over 10 years of research.

Development of the groundbreaking technique was led by West Australian psychiatrist Dr Stephen Addis, whose team uncovered distinct patterns in the heart rate data of depression sufferers as well as those suffering with other mental illnesses, such as anxiety and panic disorders.bigstock-Headache-5912394

Mental health bodies in Australia and the US have ­expressed interest in collaborating with the ASX-listed Australian company BioProspect to use and further ­develop the technology.

Clinical testing of the technology is expected to start in America in two months.

“It will have a significant impact on the early identification, diagnosis and treatment of a chronic disorder that afflicts over 350 million people worldwide,” said BioProspect CEO, Claude Solitario.

The product’s developers said the test was not designed to replace a doctor’s diagnosis, but rather work alongside current methods. It is hoped that the new technology will encourage more people who suffer from mental illness to seek professional help.

About one in five Australians are in this category, and more than half do not use ­access to treatment.

Currently depression is ­diagnosed purely by a subjective test and is dependent on the patient’s description of their symptoms and a medical practitioner’s interpretation.

About 6000 tests have ­already been conducted.

Last month independent researchers from the University of NSW, Sydney University and University of Newcastle found that in a blind test of ­patients, with a range of mental health disorders, the heart rate test demonstrated a successful diagnosis rate above 80 per cent in comparison to clinical diagnoses.

This article first appeared on Herald Sun on 20 April, 2014.

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