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The literal face of depression – How facial-recognition technologies can recognize depression

The literal face of depression - How facial-recognition technologies can recognize depression

The human face is very expressive compared to other parts of the body. How people communicate can vary greatly depending on their facial expressions and what they indicate about his or her words. Certain motions of the face are nearly ubiquitous among various cultures. Recent technological advances help some researchers learn the emotional states behind facial expressions. Researchers from Carnegie Melon used this technology to further study depression.

“A lot of time what we see [on a person’s face] is the social norm,” said Louis-Philippe Morency, an assistant professor in Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science. “Someone is smiling to smile back, so the dynamics of that smile would be different because of different emotional states and social states.”
Morency and other researchers noticed that while depression patients smiled as often as others who didn’t have the mental illness, their grins didn’t last as long. Depressed men frowned more than non-depressed males, but women actually frowned less while experiencing a depressive episode compared to when they’re not. Morency theorized that culture may play a part in this particular finding, although he opined that other factors may be in play.

Moreny hopes this kind of research can provide relatively objective data for mental health professionals to track progress of depression patients over time, although he cautioned that these tools are not suited for an initial diagnosis of depressive disorders.

Depression may differ between men and women in ways besides facial expressions. Women are more likely to develop depression in men, many studies unearth. When men do experience depression, they exhibit fewer symptoms of rumination and abuse drugs more often than women. Females are more likely to enter a depressive episode in response to a stressful event while it’s more difficult to recognize depression in men, therefore stalling effective diagnosis and treatment of the mental illness, as reported by Jill Goldstein, director of research at the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Mental health professionals with Sovereign Health Group know no two patients experience depression the same way. That’s why we go out of our way to make a complete diagnosis to ensure a complete recovery. Call us at any time to learn more about our treatment programs for mental and behavioral health.

Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer