Voice acoustic measures of depression severity and treatment response collected via interactive voice response (IVR) technology

J Neurolinguistics. 2007 Jan;20(1):50-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jneuroling.2006.04.001.


Efforts to develop more effective depression treatments are limited by assessment methods that rely on patient-reported or clinician judgments of symptom severity. Depression also affects speech. Research suggests several objective voice acoustic measures affected by depression can be obtained reliably over the telephone. Thirty-five physician-referred patients beginning treatment for depression were assessed weekly, using standard depression severity measures, during a six-week observational study. Speech samples were also obtained over the telephone each week using an IVR system to automate data collection. Several voice acoustic measures correlated significantly with depression severity. Patients responding to treatment had significantly greater pitch variability, paused less while speaking, and spoke faster than at baseline. Patients not responding to treatment did not show similar changes. Telephone standardization for obtaining voice data was identified as a critical factor influencing the reliability and quality of speech data. This study replicates and extends previous research with a larger sample of patients assessing clinical change associated with treatment. The feasibility of obtaining voice acoustic measures reflecting depression severity and response to treatment using computer-automated telephone data collection techniques is also established. Insight and guidance for future research needs are also identified.