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There's an AI that can tell if someone is suicidal

By Ian Chee - on 1 Nov 2017, 12:35pm

There's an AI that can tell if someone is suicidal

It’s no surprise that, give an AI a set of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, and it can make some amazing predictions about a person’s mental health. We previously reported on an AI that can tell if someone is suffering from schizophrenia, and another that can tell if someone will develop Alzheimer’s. Now, there’s one that can tell if you’re having suicidal tendencies.

Image source: Carnegie Mellon University.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University had 34 participants, half of which admitted to having experienced suicidal thoughts, to help train the AI. Having them all go through fMRI scans, while being shown words related to suicide like ‘death’ and ‘distressed’, as well as other words related to positive and negative emotions, five regions of the brain and six words were determined to be able to help identify those that were suicidal. Based on that information, they then trained the algorithm to identify suicidal patients. The result is an AI that correctly identified 15 of the 17 suicidal patients (88.2-percent accuracy), and 16 of the 17 (94.1-percent accuracy) of those that were not suicidal.

Another experiment saw the researchers dividing participants with suicidal tendencies into two groups, one that had attempted suicide and another that have not. A separate algorithm was able to correctly identify 16 of the 17 patients.

This is another field in mental health where AIs can help immensely with identifying complex mental disorders. Often, we know so little about the disorders, and which part of the brain it affects. For example, two people diagnosed with major depressive disorder will exhibit five of the nine symptoms in total, but the two people may have nearly no symptoms in common. This research, in addition to getting an AI to identify it, also helped us understand which part of the brain to look out for in identifying a suicidal person.

That said, there’s room for improvement for the AI. One way would be to get the algorithm to determine which are the regions of the brain that are key to identifying if a person is suicidal, instead of the researchers letting it know. And with a greater number of scans, the AI will have more training material to be more accurate, which may spark new debate about machines taking jobs away from humans.

Source: Nature Human Behavior, Carnegie Mellon University via Gizmodo.