The scientist from University of Michigan hope that the app will eventually give people with bipolar disorder and their health care teams an early warning of the changing moods that give the condition its name.
The app runs in the background on an ordinary smartphone, and automatically monitors the patients' voice patterns during any calls made as well as during weekly conversations with a member of the patient's care team, while the computer program analyzes many characteristics of the sounds and silences of each conversation.
The scientist have revealed that only the patient's side of everyday phone calls is recorded and the recordings themselves are encrypted and kept off-limits to the research team and they can see only the results of computer analysis of the recordings, which are stored in secure servers that comply with patient privacy laws.
The researchers said that because other mental health conditions also cause changes in a person's voice, the same technology framework developed for bipolar disorder could prove useful in everything from schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder to Parkinson's disease.
The app currently runs on Android operating system phones, and complies with laws about recording conversations because only one side of the conversation actually gets recorded.