Institute for Response-Genetics (e.V.)

Chairman: Prof. Dr. Hans H. Stassen

Psychiatric Hospital (KPPP), University of Zurich

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Affective State and Voice

Our interest in speech analysis has a background in psychiatric research and is founded on the fascinating prospects of computerized approaches to modelling intra-individual changes of affect over time in terms of speech parameters. In fact, human speech is considerably influenced by the affective state of the speaker and, with no great effort, an attentive listener discovers a lot about the affective state of his partner without having to talk about it explicitly during a conversation.

Speech Dysfunctions

Speech dysfunctions, such as slow, delayed or monotonous speech, are prominent features of severe mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia: "The patients speak in a low voice, slowly, hesitatingly, monotonously, sometimes stuttering, whispering, try several times before they bring out a word, become mute in the middle of a sentence. They become silent, monosyllabic, can no longer converse" (Kraepelin 1921; p. 38).

Monitoring Clinical Change

Clinicians frequently observe that the speech of depressed patients is uniform and sometimes exhibits a "regular repetition of gliding intervals" and, that the pitch alterations of these patients are narrowed, giving the voice a monotonous quality. Accordingly, clinicians routinely monitor speed of talking among affectively disturbed patients for diagnostic purposes and as indicators of clinical change.

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Moragrega I, Bridler R, Mohr C, Possenti M, Rochat D, Sanchez Parramon J, Stassen HH: Monitoring Mental Health and the Effects of Therapeutic Interventions through Self-Assessment Voice Analyses. Res Psychother. 2021, 24(3): 250-262 [get the article]
Braun S, Annovazzi C, Botella C, Bridler B, Camussi E, Delfino JP, Mohr C, Moragrega I, Papagno C, Pisoni A, Soler C, Seifritz E, Stassen HH: Assessing Chronic Stress, Coping Skills and Mood Disorders through Speech Analysis. A Self-Assessment "Voice App" for Laptops, Tablets, and Smartphones. Psychopathology 2016; 49(6): 406-419 [get the article]
Braun S, Botella C, Bridler R, Chmetz F, Delfino JP, Herzig D, Kluckner VJ, Mohr C, Moragrega I, Schrag Y, Seifritz E, Soler C, Stassen HH: Affective State and Voice: Cross-Cultural Assessment of Speaking Behavior and Voice Sound Characteristics. A Normative Multi-Center Study of 577+36 Healthy Subjects. Psychopathology 2014; 47(5): 327-340
Stassen HH, Delfino JP, Kluckner VJ, Lott P, Mohr C: Vulnerabilität und psychische Erkrankung. Swiss Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 2014; 165(5): 152-157
Stassen HH, Anghelescu IG, Angst J, Böker H, Lötscher K, Rujescu D, Szegedi A, Scharfetter C. Predicting Response to Psychopharmacological Treatment. Survey of Recent Results. Pharmacopsychiatry 2011; 44: 263-272
Stassen HH, Angst J, Hell D, Scharfetter C, Szegedi A: Is there a common resilience mechanism underlying antidepressant drug response? Evidence from 2848 patients. J Clin Psychiatry 2007; 68(8): 1195-1205
Stassen HH: Veränderungen der Sprechmotorik. In: T.Jahn (ed) Bewegungsstörungen bei psychischen Erkrankungen. Springer Heidelberg 2004; pp. 107-125
Lott PR, Guggenbühl S, Schneeberger A, Pulver AE, Stassen HH: Linguistic analysis of the speech output of schizophrenic, bipolar, and depressive patients. Psychopathology 2002; 35(4): 220-227
Stassen HH, Angst J: Wirkung und Wirkungseintritt in der Antidepressiva-Behandlung. In: Böker H and Hell D (eds) Therapie der affektiven Störungen. Stuttgart und New York 2002; Schattauer 141-165
Püschel J, Stassen HH, Bomben G, Scharfetter C and Hell D: Speaking behavior and voice sound characteristics in acute schizophrenia. J. Psychiatric Research 1998; 32: 89-97
Stassen HH, Kuny S, Hell D: The speech analysis approach to determining onset of improvement under antidepressants. Eur. Neuropsychopharmacology 1998; 8(4): 303-310
Kuny S, Stassen HH, Hell D: Kognitive Beeinträchtigungen in der Depression. Schweiz Arch Neurol Psychiatrie 1997; 150,3: 18-25
Stassen HH, Albers M, Püschel J, Scharfetter C, Tewesmeier M, Woggon B: Speaking behavior and voice sound characteristics associated with negative schizophrenia. J Psychiat Res. 1995; 29: 277-296
Stassen HH: Affekt und Sprache. Stimm- und Sprachanalysen bei Gesunden, depressiven und schizophrenen Patienten. Monographien aus dem Gesamtgebiete der Psychiatrie, Bd. 79. 1995; Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer
Kuny S, Stassen HH: Speaking behavior and voice sound characteristics in depressive patients during recovery. J Psychiat Res. 1993; 27: 289-307
Kraepelin, E: Manic Depressive Insanity and Paranoia (trans. By M. Barclay). Edinburgh, UK: Livingstone 1921


vSpacer Time course of Recovery from Depression
Time course of a patient's recovery from depression as reflected by HAMD-17 scores (dark square points) assessed at two-day intervals over an observation period of two weeks, plus a final assessment at the time of discharge from hospital ("day63"). The corresponding change over time of the speech parameter "F0-amplitude" is also shown (light circle points) in order to demonstrate the close relationship between the two courses of development (The patient responded to therapy).
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