Findings from an Emory University, USA research study* released this week demonstrate a non-invasive protocol involving heart rate data and machine learning algorithms can accurately diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Classification of post-traumatic stress disorder from heart rate variability metrics with heart rate-based window segmentation study, involving technology developed by Emory University and licensed by Medibio Limited, achieved an accuracy of 80% (+/-1%) for objectively diagnosing subjects with PTSD, and differentiating them from those without the disorder.

The study used features extracted from quiescent segments, or periods with lowest heart rates (HR), rather than features calculated from the entire 24 hours of ECG heart rate data.

Medibio’s collaboration with Emory University aims to expand the use of the technology beyond depression, to specifically classifying PTSD. The company has the exclusive option and worldwide rights to commercialise new discoveries based on the PTSD and monitoring technology developed by Emory University Principal Researchers, Dr Gari Clifford and Dr Amit Shah.

“Our results suggest the potential for a non-invasive tool to objectively track PTSD status.

“Overall, these findings underscore physiologic changes that occur with PTSD, particularly during periods of relative heart rate quiescence,” said Dr Clifford and Dr Shah.

“Our approach of estimating PTSD status from heart rate variability features is non-invasive, automatic, objective, and potentially useful for monitoring progression and/or improvement of a condition.

“Future studies could evaluate if this classifier reflects changes with effective treatment and resolution of PTSD.”

CEO and Managing Director of Medibio Limited, Jack Cosentino, hailed the research as a significant step towards assisting military veterans with PTSD.

“The research findings provide a significant step forward in assisting veterans, by identifying and diagnosing PTSD.

“This technology will also assist in the direct benefit for screening, diagnosing and treating mental illness among active military service personnel,” Mr Cosentino said.

“We look forward to future research and commercial activity in the critical areas of veterans’ mental health diagnosis and management.”