Can smart phones be the next frontier in combatting schizophrenia and depression? Interview with Dr. Danielle Schlosser

Dr. Danielle Schlosser, Lead Clinical Research Scientist at Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences), is passionate about being creative in treating schizophrenia and depression, and making treatment accessible. Dr. Schlosser will be presenting at BrainTech 2017.

A quarter of the world’s population is struggling with a mental health problem, but most are not getting treatment.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 75% of people suffering from depression are not receiving adequate care.  These are the figures that are keeping Dr. Danielle Schlosser up at night.  At Verily Life Sciences, Dr. Schlosser and her colleagues are looking for creative solutions while using today’s technologies – especially the ubiquitous smart phone – for early detection, and even treatment of depression and schizophrenia.

Dr. Danielle Schlosser

“There are a lot of reasons why people are not getting the help they need,” says Dr. Schlosser, “cost, logistical challenges, a shortage of services, and just finding treatment outside their working hours, are usually all a struggle.  But we’re looking to technology to not just improve access, but to also be innovative in all of our approaches.  We’re thinking about how to engage people, and rethinking what care should look like.”

Schizophrenia usually hits between ages 18 and 28, an age group that is very plugged into technology.  According to Dr. Schlosser, patients who get the right treatment early in the disease show rapid improvement, even preventing symptom onset, which is very exciting.

How did Dr. Schlosser embark on her current path?  “When I was younger, I worked in a locked psychiatric facility for gravely disabled patients.  These were people whose lives were robbed of them because of mental illness, and it’s simply devastating.  It became my inspiration to develop early detection strategies, which can even prevent the onset of symptoms, and accessible treatment.”

So how does potential treatment via the smart phone work?  “For most of us anticipation of a reward is as rewarding as actually getting the reward. Not so for people suffering from schizophrenia or depression,” explains Dr. Schlosser.  “We are working on solutions that break down aspirations, and reinforce goal achievement. We can engage patients through activities on their phones and actually take them through cognitive training which can retrain their brain. Up until now the focus has been on treating illnesses and symptoms.  We are passionate about treating people, and engaging them in the process.”

Dr. Iris Geffen Gloor, IBT’s BrainTech Conference Program Director, adds, “We are very excited to have Dr. Schlosser at BrainTech.  As a researcher at Verily, (formerly Google Life Sciences), her work is a perfect example of the meeting point between science and industry, and between new technologies and their potential to improve the lives of sufferers of brain diseases.  These are the themes IBT, and BrainTech, are focused on, and I’m convinced that hearing and meeting Dr. Schlosser will be interesting and inspiring for members of the local and international neuro-ecosystem who will attend the conference.”

Dr. Schlosser will be speaking on March 7th at BrainTech 2017 in the panel: “The Connected Mind – How mindfulness and cognitive enhancement technologies are improving quality of life.” 

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