Developing a better understanding of how life stress leads to the onset of psychiatric disorders, such as major depression, has the potential to transform our ability to prevent and treat these disorders. Unfortunately, our capacity to capture the effects of stress accurately and in real-time has been limited because the assessment of psychiatric phenotypes has traditionally relied on the long-term recall and self-report of symptoms by affected individuals. Mobile electronic technology holds great promise in overcoming these limitations and providing richer and more meaningful data to follow and understand the progression from stress to disease.
Because it is almost impossible to prospectively predict the onset of stress and depression in a large group of subjects however, mobile electronic technology studies conducted to date have been small and largely focused on patients already experiencing psychiatric symptoms. In order to advance, there is a critical need to understand the temporal relationship between stress and depression with real-time, objective measures.
At the completion of this project, it is our expectation that we will have identified mobile signatures that change with stress and prospectively predict changing levels of depressive symptoms. Further, it is our expectation that we will establish a nimble platform well positioned to rapidly assess new mobile electronic assessment and intervention technologies and as they emerge. These anticipated advances would have an important positive impact in the elucidation of causal mechanisms linking stress and depression and efforts to identify those at risk for mental illness in real time.