Immediate mood scaler: Tracking symptoms of depression and anxiety using a novel mobile mood scale

Mor Nahum*, Thomas M. Van Vleet, Vikaas S. Sohal, Julie J. Mirzabekov, Vikram R. Rao, Deanna L. Wallace, Morgan B. Lee, Heather Dawes, Alit Stark-Inbar, Joshua Thomas Jordan, Bruno Biagianti, Michael Merzenich, Edward F. Chang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Background: Mood disorders are dynamic disorders characterized by multimodal symptoms. Clinical assessment of symptoms is currently limited to relatively sparse, routine clinic visits, requiring retrospective recollection of symptoms present in the weeks preceding the visit. Novel advances in mobile tools now support ecological momentary assessment of mood, conducted frequently using mobile devices, outside the clinical setting. Such mood assessment may help circumvent problems associated with infrequent reporting and better characterize the dynamic presentation of mood symptoms, informing the delivery of novel treatment options. Objectives: The aim of our study was to validate the Immediate Mood Scaler (IMS), a newly developed, iPad-deliverable 22-item self-report tool designed to capture current mood states. Methods: A total of 110 individuals completed standardized questionnaires (Patient Health Questionnaire, 9-item [PHQ-9]; generalized anxiety disorder, 7-Item [GAD-7]; and rumination scale) and IMS at baseline. Of the total, 56 completed at least one additional session of IMS, and 17 completed one additional administration of PHQ-9 and GAD-7. We conducted exploratory Principal Axis Factor Analysis to assess dimensionality of IMS, and computed zero-order correlations to investigate associations between IMS and standardized scales. Linear Mixed Model (LMM) was used to assess IMS stability across time and to test predictability of PHQ-9 and GAD-7 score by IMS. Results: Strong correlations were found between standard mood scales and the IMS at baseline (r=.57-.59, P<.001). A factor analysis revealed a 12-item IMS (“IMS-12”) with two factors: a “depression” factor and an “anxiety” factor. IMS-12 depression subscale was more strongly correlated with PHQ-9 than with GAD-7 (z=1.88, P=.03), but the reverse pattern was not found for IMS-12 anxiety subscale. IMS-12 showed less stability over time compared with PHQ-9 and GAD-7 (.65 vs.91), potentially reflecting more sensitivity to mood dynamics. In addition, IMS-12 ratings indicated that individuals with mild to moderate depression had greater mood fluctuations compared with individuals with severe depression (.42 vs.79; P=.04). Finally, IMS-12 significantly contributed to the prediction of subsequent PHQ-9 (beta=1.03, P=.02) and GAD-7 scores (beta =.93, P=.01). Conclusions: Collectively, these data suggest that the 12-item IMS (IMS-12) is a valid tool to assess momentary mood symptoms related to anxiety and depression. Although IMS-12 shows good correlation with standardized scales, it further captures mood fluctuations better and significantly adds to the prediction of the scales. Results are discussed in the context of providing continuous symptom quantification that may inform novel treatment options and support personalized treatment plans.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere44
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
©Mor Nahum, Thomas M Van Vleet, Vikaas S Sohal, Julie J Mirzabekov, Vikram R Rao, Deanna L Wallace, Morgan B Lee, Heather Dawes, Alit Stark-Inbar, Joshua Thomas Jordan, Bruno Biagianti, Michael Merzenich, Edward F Chang.


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Ecological momentary assessment
  • Mobile
  • Mood disorders


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