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Crowdsourced Tool For Depression

By MIT News

April 1, 2015

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A new peer-to-peer networking tool that enables people suffering from anxiety and depression to build online support communities and practice therapeutic methods has been developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Northwestern University.

A study comparing the new Panoply application with expressive writing found the MIT/Northwestern tool was particularly effective in training subjects to use cognitive reappraisal, and improving the mood of subjects with symptoms of greater severity.

Panoply users log on and record both a triggering event and their response to it in separate fields, and then members of the support network vote on the type of thought pattern represented by the user's response to the triggering event and suggest ways to reinterpret it.

A large user network was modeled for the study by hiring online workers via Amazon's Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing application to supplement study subjects' comments.

The study found the average subject in the control group employed the expressive-writing tool 10 times over the course of three weeks, with each session lasting about three minutes. The average subject using Panoply logged in 21 times, with each session lasting approximately nine minutes.

"We can surmise that it's a little easier to practice some of these psychotherapeutic skills for other people before turning them toward themselves," says study leader and former MIT student Rob Morris.

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