- Human movements and interactions give an insight into their inherent personality traits.
- The research team have used a new and simple mirror game test, where the patient is asked to imitate the movements made by an on-screen avatar.
- They then compared these reactions with the movements that is characteristic of schizophrenia.
- Results revealed that the test can give not only an accurate and quick diagnosis, but also recorded the patient response to the ongoing treatment.
New 'mirror game' test could be the key to unlocking an affordable, reliable and effective device to provide early diagnosis and management of schizophrenia.
The game uses computer avatars to accurately detect specific variations in how patients move and interact socially.
Human movements and interactions describe a lot about their personality traits and behavior. People who display similar behavioral characteristics tend to move their bodies in the same way.
Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder that affects around one in 100 people worldwide. Its common symptoms include delusions and auditory hallucinations, or hearing voices.
There is no single test to diagnose schizophrenia and the condition is usually diagnosed after careful assessment by mental health specialists.
The research team asked volunteers to perform a series of specific movements on their own, and then they used a simple mirror game where the patients imitated some movements carried out by a computer avatar on a large screen placed opposite them.
They then observed how the patients move and react to others, and compare it with 'comparable' movement blueprints for schizophrenia sufferer.
The results of these first trials revealed that when compared to clinical interviews, the mirror-game test gave a more accurate diagnosis.
Also the results were comparable to more expensive, traditional neuroimaging methods.
"Studying how people move and react to others may seem a simplistic way to help diagnose a patient with such a debilitating condition, but our results were comparable to existing, more expensive neuroimaging methods." Slowinski added.
Before employing this early detection technique in clinical practice settings, researchers hope to conduct clinical trials to confirm its effectiveness so that it could pave newer ways for diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia in the future.
"Although this is still at a relatively early stage, we are confident that clinical trials could reveal the potential of the mirror test to produce a reliable, adaptable and, crucially, affordable, method for diagnosing and monitoring treatment of schizophrenia in patients of all ages, and all stages of the condition." Slowinski said.
The study suggested each person has an individual motor signature (IMS), a blueprint of the subtle differences in the way they move compared to someone else, such as speed or weight of movement.
A person's IMS and how they interact with others could give an insight into their mental health condition, and this would pave the way for personalized prediction, diagnosis or treatment in the future.
Professor Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova, who specialises in Mathematics in Healthcare at the University of Exeter, added "We have already shown that people who move in a certain way also react in similar ways when performing joint tasks, meaning that our movements give an insight into our inherent personality traits."
"This latest study is a pivotal step forward in using virtual reality as a means to carry out speedy and effective diagnosis, which is crucial for so many people who suffer from this debilitating condition worldwide." Tsaneva-Atanasova added
The The study, led by experts from the University of Exeter in collaboration with partners from the Alterego FP7 EU project is published in leading scientific journal npj Schizophrenia.
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