Author Archives: Jeff Moore

Artificial intelligence can detect depression in children by talking about it

Artificial intelligence, thanks above all to algorithms that learn automatically (machine learning), is also increasingly entering the medical sector dedicated to mental disorders thanks mainly to the fact that human speech can offer a considerable level of detail and data that can be analyzed. This is the case of new research published in the Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics according to which, with a machine learning algorithm, it is also possible to detect the signs of depression in children by analyzing speech patterns.

About one in five children suffer from anxiety and depression, disorders also known as “internalizing disorders.” However, unlike adults, it is more difficult for doctors to diagnose a disorder such as depression because children cannot reliably articulate their emotional suffering. This difficulty then gives rise to a series of problems that can lead some parents to give up treatments that could be very important.

It is thought that for most depressed children this state is not diagnosed or treated, as reported by Ellen McGinnis, a psychologist at the University of Vermont and one of the authors of the study. This study has seen the researchers use an automatic learning algorithm to analyze the main characteristics, also on a statistical level, inherent in the speech of various audio recordings of speeches and words uttered by dozens of children who took several tests.

The researchers found that the algorithm was effective in diagnosing internalizing disorders in children with 80% accuracy. In addition, the algorithm took only a few seconds to process the piece of speech that was fed to them and make the diagnosis. In particular, the algorithm identified several unique characteristics that stood out for being highly indicative of internalizing disorders and among these there was a voice with a low frequency, with repeated inflections and content in speech.

Sea level could rise by two meters within 2100

Rising sea levels continue to be a cause for concern. Using new techniques to measure ice in the world’s polar regions, a group of experts has calculated that the seas on our planet could rise by two meters by 2100, an increase essentially due to the melting of the polar ice. This is an increase in sea level which would literally mean flooding coastal cities like New York.

The main author of this new study, Jonathan Bamber of the University of Bristol in the UK, clearly states that a sea-level rise of more than two meters cannot be ruled out if we continue along today’s trajectory of emissions, essentially those caused by the burning of fossil fuels, which cause global warming through increased CO2 in the atmosphere.

This trajectory predicts an increase of 5°C in the average global temperature, one of the worst scenarios, substantially the one that would occur if the situation were to remain as it is today and if no counteracting action were to be taken by world governments in the coming years.

Such an increase would lead to a loss of land of about 1,200,000 square miles, an area equivalent to three times that of California. Not only New York and Miami would be flooded, but also other cities such as London and Rio de Janeiro, situations that would involve almost 200 million people in the world who would then have to be moved elsewhere, with more than harmful consequences for humanity, especially from an economic point of view.

This assessment is twice as high as other assessments recently presented by other experts. And the study’s projections go even further even though uncertainty about the forecasts naturally increases exponentially. In the worst-case scenario, sea levels could rise by as much as 7.5 meters by 2200.

Chicken cells genetically modified to resist avian influenza

A group of researchers at Imperial College London used complicated genetics techniques to ensure that laboratory-grown chicken cells could successfully fight the avian influenza virus. This new step forward once again raises the fateful question of whether genetically modified chickens can be created, even for human consumption, to resist this widespread disease affecting birds.

At the moment no live chicken has been born with these genetic modifications but this could be the next step of the team of scientists. Specifically, the researchers, with the help of genetic experts from the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, have eliminated a particular section of DNA from chickens within cells of the same grown in the laboratory. This section of DNA is responsible for the creation of a particular molecule that is in turn exploited by the virus to spread.

The molecule targeted by British researchers, called ANP32A, is the one that is used by the avian influenza virus. The latter, in fact, hijacks this very molecule and attacks it in order to replicate faster. Once this section was eliminated, the virus was no longer able to grow inside the cells. This technique could be used to limit the spread of this disease, which is very serious for birds but can also take root, although rarely, in humans.

According to Mike McGrew, of the Roslin Institute, it is a “major advance that suggests that we may be able to use genetic modification techniques to produce chickens resistant to avian influenza. We haven’t yet produced birds and we need to see if DNA change has other effects on bird cells before we can take the next step.”

It is best not to overdo Linoleic acid during pregnancy

According to a new study published in The Journal of Physiology, exaggerating the diet with omega 6 fats, particularly linoleic acid, could be harmful during pregnancy. In particular, a diet with three times the recommended daily dose of linoleic acid could be particularly dangerous.

Linoleic acid, present in foods such as potato chips and vegetable oil, bring about several changes in liver function, as researchers themselves have seen when conducting experiments on pregnant female mice. The researchers fed several rats over the course of 10 weeks on a diet with a high level of linoleic acid.

They then matched these rats and studied pregnant female mice. The latter showed an altered liver, particularly in terms of inflammatory protein concentrations. The latter caused the uterus to contract during pregnancy and decreased levels of a particular hormone that regulates the growth and development of the fetus.

Such changes, according to the researchers, can lead to various complications during pregnancy, including poor development of the baby.

According to Deanne Skelly, one of the authors of the research, “It is important that pregnant women consider their diet and our research is another example that potentially consuming too much of a certain type of nutrient can have a negative impact on the growing child.”