IBM 5 in 5 | Five innovations that will help change our lives within five years

With AI, our words will be a window into our mental health

The people that shaped the future

In five years, what we say and write will be used as indicators of our mental health and physical wellbeing. Patterns in our speech and writing analyzed by new cognitive systems will provide tell-tale signs of early-stage developmental disorders, mental illness and degenerative neurological diseases that can help doctors and patients better predict, monitor and track these conditions.




Brain disorders, including developmental, psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases, represent an enormous disease burden, in terms of human suffering and economic cost. For example, today, one in five adults in the U.S. experiences a mental health condition such as depression, bipolar disease or schizophrenia, and roughly half of individuals with severe psychiatric disorders receive no treatment. The global cost of mental health conditions is projected to surge to US$ 6.0 trillion by 2030.


In five years


Cognitive computers will analyze a patient’s speech or written words to look for tell-tale indicators found in language, including meaning, syntax and intonation. Combining the results of these measurements with those from wearables devices and imaging systems (MRIs and EEGs) can paint a more complete picture of the individual for health professionals to better identify, understand and treat the underlying disease, be it Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease, PTSD or even neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism and ADHD.

What were once invisible signs will become clear signals of patients’ likelihood of entering a certain mental state or how well their treatment plan is working, complementing regular clinical visits with daily assessments from the comfort of their homes.


How this could change the world

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Analyze speech for early detection

Find patterns in speech to accurately predict and monitor psychosis, schizophrenia, mania and depression.

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Written words provide indicators

Analyze written words to help evaluate our mental health, alerting us to a decline before it occurs.

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Cognitive assistants for mental health

Cognitive assistants and sensors in our smart phones could “listen” out for our wellbeing.

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Automated mental health tools

Create automated tools to help doctors track and treat the progression of a patient’s neurological disease.


Close up of an automated analysis of Hamlet's "to be or not to be" soliloquy, created using a text sentiment analysis app developed by IBM scientists.


At IBM, scientists are using transcripts and audio inputs from psychiatric interviews, coupled with machine learning techniques, to find patterns in speech to help clinicians accurately predict and monitor psychosis, schizophrenia, mania and depression. Today, it only takes about 300 words to help clinicians predict the probability of psychosis in a user.

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An analysis of Hamlet's "to be or not to be" soliloquy using IBM Research's app on a mobile device.

mental health team

IBM Researchers are using machine learning and natural language processing to analyze spoken and written language to help better understand the workings of the human brain.

What is IBM Research disrupting today?