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For many years, psychiatrists have tried to understand factors involved in response to medications or psychotherapies, in order to personalize their treatment choices. There is now a broad and growing interest in the idea that we can develop models to personalize treatment decisions using new statistical approaches from the field of machine learning and applying them to larger volumes of data. In this pursuit, there has been a paradigm shift away from experimental studies to confirm or refute specific hypotheses towards a focus on the overall explanatory power of a predictive model when tested on new, unseen datasets. In this paper, we review key studies using machine learning to predict treatment outcomes in psychiatry, ranging from medications and psychotherapies to digital interventions and neurobiological treatments. Next, we focus on some new sources of data that are being used for the development of predictive models based on machine learning, such as electronic health records, smartphone and social media data, and on the potential utility of data from genetics, electrophysiology, neuroimaging and cognitive testing. Finally, we discuss how far the field has come towards implementing prediction tools in real-world clinical practice. Relatively few retrospective studies to-date include appropriate external validation procedures, and there are even fewer prospective studies testing the clinical feasibility and effectiveness of predictive models. Applications of machine learning in psychiatry face some of the same ethical challenges posed by these techniques in other areas of medicine or computer science, which we discuss here. In short, machine learning is a nascent but important approach to improve the effectiveness of mental health care, and several prospective clinical studies suggest that it may be working already. © 2021 World Psychiatric Association.


Adam M Chekroud, Julia Bondar, Jaime Delgadillo, Gavin Doherty, Akash Wasil, Marjolein Fokkema, Zachary Cohen, Danielle Belgrave, Robert DeRubeis, Raquel Iniesta, Dominic Dwyer, Karmel Choi. The promise of machine learning in predicting treatment outcomes in psychiatry. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA). 2021 Jun;20(2):154-170

PMID: 34002503

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