Facebook app to analyse changes in mood

Melbourne researchers have officially launched a year-long study into whether the use of a Facebook app can predict and prevent a relapse in people living with bipolar disorder.

The Facebook use in Affective Disorders (FAD) study is thought to be a world first and involves an app developed by researchers at the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Centre (MAPrc) and RMIT University's School of Intelligent Systems with funding from beyondblue.

It is recruiting people between the ages of 18 and 30 who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and are active on Facebook. When participants sign up, an app will be added to the Facebook app panel.

Participants will be asked to fill in dates of previous episodes of mania and depression, and will then receive daily notifications from the research team asking them to rate their mood.

The app will then record the time and date that a participant is active on Facebook, including when they add comments, likes or posts. However, the researchers will not be able to see any of the contents of these posts. Data on previous relapse episodes will be collected and compared to new data in order to have an accurate image of how Facebook use varies during a relapse episode.

The data will being collected to see if there is a link between how participants are using Facebook and their mood at the time of use. It will then be analysed to see if it is possible to predict an episode of mania by analysing changes in Facebook use.

MAPrc deputy director Paul Fitzgerald said the research team would use the pilot study to develop and refine the algorithm that predicts a relapse.

“The app will be developed to the point where it can identify changes in Facebook use that predict impending illness relapse and then alert the patient, their mental health physician, carers or family to take immediate action,” Professor Fitzgerald said.

A participant can opt out of the study at any time by removing the FAD study app from their Facebook permissions. If a participant is inactive for two months, all permissions to access the individual’s data will lapse.

Interested parties can sign up here.

Posted in Allied Health

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