Mota N., Copelli M., Ribeiro S.
The early onset of mental disorders can lead to serious cognitive damage, and timely interventions are needed in order to prevent them. In patients of low socioeconomic status, as is common in Latin America, it can be hard to identify children at risk. Here, we briefly introduce the problem by reviewing the scarce epidemiological data from Latin America regarding the onset of mental disorders, and discussing the difficulties associated with early diagnosis. Then we present computational psychiatry, a new field to which we and other Latin American researchers have contributed methods particularly relevant for the quantitative investigation of psychopathologies manifested during childhood. We focus on new technologies that help to identify mental disease and provide prodromal evaluation, so as to promote early differential diagnosis and intervention. To conclude, we discuss the application of these methods to clinical and educational practice. A comprehensive and quantitative characterization of verbal behavior in children, from hospitals and laboratories to homes and schools, may lead to more effective pedagogical and medical intervention.