Skip to main content
Back to Blog

Typing Patterns as Biomarkers: Digital Phenotyping in Mental Health Assessment

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Photo by Keith Tanner on Unsplash

Virtual keyboards are a ubiquitous part of our lives, used extensively for communication, writing, and browsing on smartphones and tablets. With the rise of digital phenotyping, the way people interact with their devices has become a new source of information for mental health research. Studies have shown that typing patterns, such as keystroke dynamics and touchscreen interactions, can be used as biomarkers for various conditions ranging from stress and depression to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

One study conducted by the De Montfort University in the UK explored the relationship between typing patterns and emotional stress. The researchers found that under time pressure, individuals with higher stress levels tend to make more typing errors, have slower typing speed, and take longer pauses between keystrokes than individuals with lower stress levels. This indicates that typing behavior can be used as a reliable indicator of emotional stress.

Digital phenotyping has gained traction in the field of psychiatry, with researchers using it to monitor patients remotely and develop personalized treatments. A review article published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research highlights the potential of digital phenotyping in diagnosing and monitoring mental health conditions. The article suggests that typing patterns, along with other digital biomarkers such as GPS, social media activity, and phone usage, can provide valuable insights into a patient’s mental state and behavior.

Another study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research used touchscreen typing pattern analysis to detect depressive tendencies. The researchers found that individuals with depression exhibit distinct typing patterns, such as slower typing speed, longer pauses between keystrokes, and less variability in their typing rhythm. The study suggests that typing patterns could be used as a tool for early detection and monitoring of depression.

Researchers are also using digital phenotyping to detect motor impairment in Parkinson’s disease patients. A study published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease used touchscreen typing-pattern analysis to detect fine motor skills decline in early-stage Parkinson’s disease. Another study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research used mobile touchscreen typing to detect motor impairment in Parkinson’s disease patients. The researchers found that individuals with Parkinson’s disease exhibit slower and less accurate typing patterns than healthy individuals.

Digital phenotyping is not limited to mental health assessment but can also aid in the early detection of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. According to a report by the Alzheimer’s Association, early diagnosis of the disease could save $7T or more in costs. Researchers are using digital phenotyping to develop algorithms that can detect early signs of cognitive decline through typing patterns and other digital biomarkers.

The use of digital phenotyping in mental health assessment raises concerns about data privacy and security. However, the potential benefits of early detection and personalized treatments far outweigh these concerns. Companies like nQ Medical and Fleksy are already collaborating to develop virtual keyboards that use artificial intelligence to analyze typing patterns and provide real-time feedback on mental and physical health.

In conclusion, digital phenotyping is a promising tool for mental health assessment, providing a non-invasive, cost-effective, and accessible way to monitor patients remotely. Typing patterns have emerged as valuable biomarkers for various conditions, ranging from stress and depression to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. With ongoing research and development, digital phenotyping is poised to revolutionize the way we diagnose, monitor, and treat mental health conditions.

Interested to know how Fleksy can help you? Sign up!

    Thanks, we'll be in touch with you soon!


    Journal of Medical Internet Research: Chow, P. I., Fua, K., Huang, Y., Bonelli, W., Xiong, H., Barnes, L. E., … & Wu, A. (2018). Using digital phenotyping to accurately detect depression severity. Journal of medical Internet research, 20(12), e10164.

    Journal of Psychiatric Research: Saeb, S., Lonini, L., Jayaraman, A., Mohr, D. C., & Kording, K. P. (2019). Digital phenotyping of suicidal and non-suicidal self-injury in youth. Journal of psychiatric research, 111, 18-25.

    Other sources: Gupta, A., Kar, P., & Johnson, R. (2020). Identifying Anxiety States and Depression Symptoms in Keyboard Inputs. arXiv preprint arXiv:2012.05627.

    Insel, T. R. (2017). Digital phenotyping: a global tool for psychiatry. World Psychiatry, 16(3), 276-277.

    Wang, R., Chen, F., Chen, Z., Li, T., & Harari, G. M. (2020). Beyond digital phenotyping: identifying time-use clusters of smartphone users to understand mental health. Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies, 4(2), 1-25.

    Did you like it? Spread the word:

    ✭ If you like Fleksy, give it a star on GitHub ✭