Scientists in the US claim to have developed a computerized garment that they say can help doctors diagnose mental illnesses like mania, depression and schizophrenia.
The high-tech garment is packed with sensors that monitor the heart, breathing rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, body movements and posture, reported online edition of the Daily Mail.
AdvertisementIt was initially developed to keep tabs on heart disease patients but it has also been used on athletes, firemen and even children with autism, to measure the effects of stress on the body.
The key to the latest research is a sensor called an accelerometer. Scientists said this records whether the patient is walking, moving quickly, standing still or fidgeting and builds up a picture of his activity.
According to the scientists, patients with manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder, can become very agitated and fidgety and may repeat the same movements over and over again. It is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person's mood, energy, and ability to function.
The patient swings from extreme depression, often involving thoughts of suicide, to a state of high excitement, or mania. It's thought that although the condition can be genetic, it can also be brought on by extreme stress.
With the right treatment, many patients live a near-normal life, returning to work and controlling their moods through a strict drug regime.
But in the early stages of an acute episode of mania, it can be difficult to distinguish between the symptoms of manic depression and schizophrenia, even though they are two separate conditions requiring different treatments.
Schizophrenia is much more difficult to control and few patients are able to work or live a normal life.
Sufferers often experience hallucinations, paranoia and hear voices in their head. Getting an accurate diagnosis is crucial to reducing the risk of patients harming themselves or others.
Psychiatrists normally identify which condition patients have by studying their behaviour patterns over a period of time.
But there have been cases of patients with bipolar disorder waiting up to ten years to get an accurate diagnosis because their symptoms come and go so much.
Scientists hope that the computerised, lightweight and machine-washable vest, called Life Shirt, could speed up that process.
William Perry, professor of psychiatry at the University of California in San Diego, who lead the study hopes the lightweight and machine-washable vest called Life Shirt will eventually be used to help doctors get an accurate diagnosis by monitoring patients for just 15 minutes.