According to the results of a recently study piloting an AI virtual coach, AI-powered tools could provide a powerful therapeutic benefit for patients with anxiety and depression. The results of the study are described in a recent article published in Translational Psychiatry.
The AI coach, called Lumen, was a virtual therapy coach that was designed to deliver psychotherapy to people with anxiety and depressions. It works through Amazon’s Alexa platform, meaning it could be available to people on a large scale. The National Institutes of Mental Health provided funding to develop Lumen.
As part of the study, researchers recruited about 60 participants with mild to moderate depression and anxiety symptoms. Researchers wanted to see if Lumen could help improve these overall symptoms. They were also curious to see how Lumen affected certain parts of the brain. In particularly, researchers were interested in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activity, an area of the brain connected with cognition and an area that is associated with positive reactions to certain types of behavioral therapy.
Findings from the study suggested that Lumen was able to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as increase activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which translated into increased problem-solving abilities. The team also found there were strong benefits of a virtual AI coach in women and underrepresented populations. A larger clinical trial of Lumen is currently underway.
Particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic, anxiety and depression has becoming an increasingly common problem with more and more people presenting with these conditions. As a result, there has been an increased demand for mental health services. However, the resources available to provide these services, including human therapists, has not kept pace with the ongoing rise in mental health problems. Researchers believe that Lumen may offer a way to complement existing care and fill certain gaps, rather than fully replace a human therapist. In fact, it may offer an option for some people until they are able to see a therapist and receive the care they need.