Artificial Intelligence

How AI and Machine Learning are Aiding Schizophrenia Research

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In the U.S. about 20 percent of adults suffer from a mental health condition, ranging from depression to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia, and about half of those with severe psychiatric disorders receive no treatment. While early identification, diagnosis, and treatment for patients with psychosis tends to mean improved outcomes, there continues to be significant barriers in achieving this. For schizophrenia, there is no medical testing that can provide an absolute diagnosis; this can mean significant delay before a symptomatic person is successfully diagnosed.

A computer model of the human brain, a “brain template.”

Earlier this year, IBM scientists collaborated with researchers at the University of Alberta and the IBM Alberta Centre for Advanced Studies (CAS) to publish new research regarding the use of AI and machine learning algorithms to predict instances of schizophrenia with a 74 percent accuracy. The research also shows a further capability to predict the severity of specific symptoms in schizophrenia patients – something that was not possible before. Using AI and machine learning, ‘computational psychiatry’ can be used to help clinicians more quickly assess – and therefore treat – patients with schizophrenia.

Computational psychiatry provides physicians with tools that enable them to objectively assess patients where most approaches had been subjective up until that point. In this schizophrenia research, we have learned that powerful technology can be used to predict the likelihood of a previously-unseen patient having schizophrenia. For the first time, clinicians could be able to quantitatively determine the severity of common symptoms and even identify and measure the progression of the disease, as well as the effectiveness of treatment.

This kind of innovative collaboration is just one example of the work being done between IBM and the University of Alberta through the IBM Alberta Centre for Advanced Studies. For more than a decade, the Centre’s unique public/private approach to research has become an example at a global level of how teaming world-class scientists and researchers can drive greater discovery and progression of disruptive technologies to address some of our greatest challenges.

As part of the ongoing relationship, research teams will continue to investigate areas and connections in the brain that hold significant links to schizophrenia, and also explore ways to extend these techniques to other psychiatric disorders, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

IBM has always recognized that investment in research and development is an important driver in solving some of our greatest global health problems, and this research is indicative of that commitment. It is a real example of innovation that matters.

Principal Research Staff Member, Computational Neuroscience, IBM Research

Irina Rish

Research Staff Member, AI Foundations Group, IBM Research


Is it involving Computer vision and image processing techniques?

I believe it is similar to the medical imaging techniques.

I think I can relate as we are working into Medical Imaging and CVIP..


Very exciting to see the breakthrough in diagnosing schizophrenia. This is a horrible disease that affects the patient and loved ones. Treatment of this mental illness is still a huge issue as the medication approach is based on trial and error. What is IBM doing to apply more research/machine learning not only to diagnosing this disease, but proper treatment and medication?

John A Gehrke

I don’t see how this could be paid for or even locally provided to benefit many, even with USA ‘health care’

Deepak Venkatapuram

My Mom was diagnosed with Schizophrenia 7 years back, It took lot of time to figure out what was wrong with her, after close to 1 year, doctors suggested what is was. Shes on bed from last 6 years, surviving on daily 1 Apple and Ensure drink 3 times a day ever since.

Research like this will help the doctors to diagnose the problem at the early stage and provide medication.

Sharon Yang

Glad to see the initiatives…we need preventive and treatment for this yesterday.


It is good to see that the world is bothered and has started an initiative in treating this dreadful disease. All the best to our IBMers who are working on this project. Hope we are able to find a solution to this problem.It would not be easy but rather than not doing anything it is good that we keep researching on it and get a solution to it.

Roshni Lala

Love the initiative. Nice to see IBM taking such great effort towards Schizophrenia.

Darrell Kirby

It is nice to see IBM technology being used in these areas. There are many patients affected with mental disabilities that will benefit from this use.

Nadeem Wani

How would this help treat patient..? I know people suffering with this dreadful disease and predicting the disease isn’t treating them… why don’t we instead work on a prudent treatment rather than diagnosing it in people when we can’t cure it. Frankly if you research diagnosis of this disease isn’t actually problem, But the treatment is! Would appreciate if we could spend more time and money to find permanent cure too.
Thanks for taking this initiative though!


This research is promising. I hope this could improve the psychological interventions for schizophrenia patients.

Diego Cantor

Very interesting paper, however I disagree in categorizing support vector machines into the concept of AI. In my opinion SVMs are simply traditional machine learning.

Tejas Chourasia

This is a great contribution in medical field.Specially for mental health issues which we think of less importance.But it is very important.


i think mental illnesses should not be treated like illness in general – mental illnesses can make life difficult but prescribing pills or diagnosing (and with AI, faster diagnosis) is not the cure – it is real care that helps – and AI is not able to do that. it can help medicine but i don’t believe that the focus should be medical regarding schizophrenia, depression, ptsd etc.

Himanshi Jain

Great initiative. This will improve the value of live for millions!

Emily Herbert

This is very exciting. Does Watson also handle the analysis of data taken from the fMRI? When I worked at the Institute of Psychiatry as part of Kings College in London we were conducting research investigating the differences in brain structure and activity between adolescents with and without schizophrenia. It was fascinating, but analysing the data was very cumbersome!

Monal Jain

This is great! I am looking forward to some reference video or blog is shared soon so that I can understand the solution in depth for knowledge sake. I am also hoping that IBM will soon help Parkinson’s patients too. Schizophrenia is one of the conditions that come along with it. And this article proves that we are on the way, way ahead than any other organization, even the medical ones.

    Juan Valderrama

    Great achievement!!!
    I really appreciate more technical information regarding the solution, what type of algorithms were used, what are those algorithms were looking for, the neuro basis taking into account, etc

Kuldeep Thirumalai

So awesome to see IBM applying technology and partnering with world class research institutions to impact the area of Mental illness — which touches everyone directly or indirectly. Creating early & predictive detection of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia would enable timely treatment that would improve the lives of many individuals and families. Heartening!

Aadil Hussain

Great to hear this in healthcare stream, AI and ML will lead the world!!!
Great job by IBM researchers…!!!

Joanne Paulo

Great to see IBM performing research in this area.

Sancia Matthyssen

Very happy to see this type of work being taken on. Mental illness is not just a number or a percentage of the population, it affects those around the person who suffers also. It is so hard to diagnose exactly what a person may suffer from, what part of the brain, which medication will work for an individual – so mental illness continues to take life (and the value of life) away from hundreds of thousands of people. I hope that IBM can take a larger role in solving some of the mystery around proper diagnosis through its research on machine learning and AI, and perhaps apply it to social media to identify those that need help before it is too late.

Ross Webb

Great to see IBM participating and supporting research efforts in mental illness .

steve zehner

Are we exploiting IBM Power with nVidia in IBM research engagements with AI since it is so much faster and a more open platform than Intel?

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