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The Sound Of Your Voice Could Help Doctors Diagnose Disease, Research Finds

The Sound Of Your Voice Could Help Doctors Diagnose Disease, Research Finds

In the digital age, we have become increasingly aware of our own health and the core symptoms that can be indicative of illness. This has made it far easier for people recognise when they are unwell, increasing their chances of successfully treating ailments and returning to full health over time.

A similar trend has driven preventative medicine throughout the age, as innovation and research have enabled healthcare service providers to improve diagnostics and pre-treatment options rather than focusing solely on reactive measures. This was seen during the recent outbreak of the Zika virus in South America, where a novel vaccine candidate was quickly presented to protect citizens in affected areas.

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Why the Sound of your Voice is now a key Diagnostic Tool

In terms of diagnostics, technology has also enabled doctors to improve their accuracy while determining new methods of identifying specific illnesses. Most recently, employees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed an innovation that has introduced a new diagnostic metric, which is the sound of each individual patient’s voice. This hardware, which is still under development, analyses voices according to tone and the speed at which words and sentences are formed.

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By analysing various aspects of a patient’s voice, doctors are able to determine subtle vocal tics that will enable them to diagnose illnesses at a very early stage. This includes everything from mental health issues such as depression to respiratory disorders, as healthcare professionals search for time-dependent variations in pitch and subtle shifts in pace. In laymen terms, this technology builds on accepted knowledge pertaining to the links between voice patterns and certain illnesses (such as the fact that those with depression may occasionally speak with a flatter tone) to drive informed, accurate and insightful diagnostics.

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The hardware has been tested extensively across several groups of subjects, which were required to read standard, sample paragraphs. The technology breaks these statements down into individual components called phonemes, known by linguistic experts as the building blocks of language. These phonemes are then analysed using proprietary algorithms, highlighting potential issues and singling out specific symptoms. These can relate to numerous ailments, from mild traumatic brain disease to dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Is this just the beginning for voice analysis in Diagnostics?

The research team working on this technology are not alone in their quest, with IMB currently teaming its own, Watson super-computer with academic research teams to identify potential psychological issues in subjects using speech patterns. A Berlin-based company has also worked on developing hardware that can diagnose ADHD patients with voice recordings, while apps are also being developed across the globe base on tone and speech patterns. Make no mistake; however, the research being conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is at an advanced stage while the current hardware requires only a minute of speech to identify the vocal biomarkers that represent symptoms of mental and physical illness.

What is more, this may be just the tip of the iceberg for the utilisation of tone and speech patterns, particularly as the voice remains a complex and scarcely understood aspects of our physiology. With huge data sets hidden within the composition of our voice, this latest innovation may herald a new dawn in the field of diagnostics and preventative care, particularly in relation to ailments that are chronically under-diagnosed and difficult to identify. This includes complex mood disorders and mild cases of depression, where there remains a lack of easily distinguishable symptoms and objective screening. Ultimately, this technology may eradicate these issues in some cases, while also advancing to the point where it is accessible to laymen through a downloadable mobile application.

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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