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Thinc outside the box: How this screening tool could aid the diagnosis of depression

The Lead South Australia /

The THINC-integrated tool (THINC-it) is an app co-designed by researchers from the University of Adelaide’s Discipline of Psychiatry that measures cognitive deficits associated with major depressive disorder (MDD).

A new study evaluated the effectiveness of the app in assessing cognitive function in 127 life-long sufferers of MDD. Research officer Matthew Knight said he hopes the study will build on previous research to encourage the use of the app in clinical settings.

“What we’d really like to see is that the psychiatrists use the THINC-it tool as part of their normal diagnosis of depression,” Knight said.

“It should be involved in general diagnoses and screening and should be considered as an outcome measure for people who have already been diagnosed.”

The study showed cognitive deficits identified by THINC-it are associated with global and specific psychosocial deficits, highlighting the clinical value of THINC-it as a cognitive screening instrument in patients with MDD.

Former head of psychiatry at the University of Adelaide Professor Bernard Baune said the need for an efficient screening tool is growing in the mental health industry.

“Existing cognitive screening tools are more time consuming and costly than THINC-it and place a significant administrative burden on the psychiatrist or interviewer,” Professor Baune, who helped develop the program, said.

“It is very important to identify cognitive deficits in patients with major depressive disorders so that these patients can receive treatments specifically designed to address their cognitive and functional symptoms.”

The World Health Organisation reported in 2018 that more than 300 million people suffer from depression globally.

Knight said the efficiency of the app could streamline the diagnostic process for health professionals.

“THINC-it will enhance the precision of treatment for people suffering from severe depression,” Knight said.

“You can get the results very quickly and easily, which is a big thing for psychiatrists because they have very limited time.”

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