Research Article: Mobile detection of autism through machine learning on home video: A development and prospective validation study

Date Published: November 27, 2018

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Qandeel Tariq, Jena Daniels, Jessey Nicole Schwartz, Peter Washington, Haik Kalantarian, Dennis Paul Wall, Suchi Saria

Abstract: BackgroundThe standard approaches to diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) evaluate between 20 and 100 behaviors and take several hours to complete. This has in part contributed to long wait times for a diagnosis and subsequent delays in access to therapy. We hypothesize that the use of machine learning analysis on home video can speed the diagnosis without compromising accuracy. We have analyzed item-level records from 2 standard diagnostic instruments to construct machine learning classifiers optimized for sparsity, interpretability, and accuracy. In the present study, we prospectively test whether the features from these optimized models can be extracted by blinded nonexpert raters from 3-minute home videos of children with and without ASD to arrive at a rapid and accurate machine learning autism classification.Methods and findingsWe created a mobile web portal for video raters to assess 30 behavioral features (e.g., eye contact, social smile) that are used by 8 independent machine learning models for identifying ASD, each with >94% accuracy in cross-validation testing and subsequent independent validation from previous work. We then collected 116 short home videos of children with autism (mean age = 4 years 10 months, SD = 2 years 3 months) and 46 videos of typically developing children (mean age = 2 years 11 months, SD = 1 year 2 months). Three raters blind to the diagnosis independently measured each of the 30 features from the 8 models, with a median time to completion of 4 minutes. Although several models (consisting of alternating decision trees, support vector machine [SVM], logistic regression (LR), radial kernel, and linear SVM) performed well, a sparse 5-feature LR classifier (LR5) yielded the highest accuracy (area under the curve [AUC]: 92% [95% CI 88%–97%]) across all ages tested. We used a prospectively collected independent validation set of 66 videos (33 ASD and 33 non-ASD) and 3 independent rater measurements to validate the outcome, achieving lower but comparable accuracy (AUC: 89% [95% CI 81%–95%]). Finally, we applied LR to the 162-video-feature matrix to construct an 8-feature model, which achieved 0.93 AUC (95% CI 0.90–0.97) on the held-out test set and 0.86 on the validation set of 66 videos. Validation on children with an existing diagnosis limited the ability to generalize the performance to undiagnosed populations.ConclusionsThese results support the hypothesis that feature tagging of home videos for machine learning classification of autism can yield accurate outcomes in short time frames, using mobile devices. Further work will be needed to confirm that this approach can accelerate autism diagnosis at scale.

Partial Text: Neuropsychiatric disorders are the single greatest cause of disability due to noncommunicable disease worldwide, accounting for 14% of the global burden of disease [1]. A significant contributor to this metric is autism spectrum disorder (ASD, or autism), which has risen in incidence by approximately 700% since 1996 [2,3] and now impacts 1 in 59 children in the United States [4,5]. ASD is arguably one of the largest pediatric health challenges, as supporting an individual with the condition costs up to $2.4 million during his/her lifespan in the US [6] and over $5 billion annually in US healthcare costs [6].

All classifiers used for testing the time and accuracy of mobile video rating had accuracies above 90% (Table 1). The union of features across these 8 classifiers (Table 1) was 23 (Fig 1). These features plus an additional 7 chosen for clinical validity testing were loaded into a mobile video rating portal to enable remote feature tagging by nonclinical video raters.

Previous work [26–29] has shown that machine learning models built on records from standard autism diagnoses can achieve high classification accuracy with a small number of features. Although promising in terms of their minimal feature requirements and ability to generate an accurate risk score, their potential for improving autism diagnosis in practice has remained an open question. The present study tested the ability to reduce these models to the practice of home video evaluation by nonexperts using mobile platforms (e.g., tablets, smartphones). Independent tagging of 30 features by 3 raters blind to diagnosis enabled majority rules machine learning classification of 162 two-minute (average) home videos in a median of 4 minutes at 90% AUC on children ages 20 months to 6 years. This performance was maintained at 89% AUC (95% CI 81%–95%) in a prospectively collected and independent external set of 66 videos each with 3 independent rater measurement vectors. Taking advantage of the probability scores generated by the best-performing model (L1-regularized LR model with 5 features) to flag low-confidence cases, we were able to achieve a 91% AUC, suggesting that the approach could benefit from the use of the scores on a more quantitative scale rather than just as a binary classification outcome.



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