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Skin sensor depression test tested

Jan 30,2019
A state-run research institute claimed it has developed sensor technology that can effectively determine whether a test subject is depressed.

The Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) announced Tuesday that it was able to identify depression by using sensors to measure electrodermal activity, or changes in the skin’s electric properties.

The team undertook the study to offer a physiology-based alternative to current methods of diagnosis. Previous clinical research by other scientists has also found that electrodermal activity can be used as a biomarker for depression.

Together with Samsung Medical Center mental health experts, the ETRI team tested the sensor on around 60 patients and control subjects and was able to correctly determine which individuals suffer depression.

The research team emphasized that advanced diagnosis would require the analysis of brain waves, temperature and breathing. Further improvements in sensor technology, however, would help in the diagnosis of other mental health problems, like anxiety disorders and ADHD.

One of ETRI’s goals is to apply its sensor technology to wearables.

If the sensors are embedded into wearables, “individuals will be able to identify their conditions early on, and even report them to guardians and hospitals automatically,” read the ETRI’s report.

While the sensors are advanced enough to be commercialized today, according to ETRI, further steps need to be taken to scale them down from their current size to be practical.

The research team has been studying sensors to monitor mental illnesses and make predictions since 2015 as a part of a government initiative.

Regarding the most recent finding, Kim Seung-hwan, one of the researchers, said “we saw the possibility of developing a diagnosis and prediction system for psychiatric disorders based on physiological signals.”

The team’s findings are available in online journal Scientific Reports under the title “Automatic detection of major depressive disorder using electrodermal activity.”


BY KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]