Phonologically-based biomarkers for major depressive disorder
August 16, 2011
Of increasing importance in the civilian and military population is the recognition of major depressive disorder at its earliest stages and intervention before the onset of severe symptoms. Toward the goal of more effective monitoring of depression severity, we introduce vocal biomarkers that are derived automatically from phonologically-based measures of speech rate. To assess our measures, we use a 35-speaker free-response speech database of subjects treated for depression over a 6-week duration. We find that dissecting average measures of speech rate into phone-specific characteristics and, in particular, combined phone-duration measures uncovers stronger relationships between speech rate and depression severity than global measures previously reported for a speech-rate biomarker. Results of this study are supported by correlation of our measures with depression severity and classification of depression state with these vocal measures. Our approach provides a general framework for analyzing individual symptom categories through phonological units, and supports the premise that speaking rate can be an indicator of psychomotor retardation severity.