19 July, 2018
Autism is a complex varied disease which is difficult to be diagnosed even by experts. And even when they do spot the signs, getting an autism diagnosis takes time.
Families must sometimes visit the nearest autism clinic for several face-to-face appointments. Not everyone has easy access to these clinics, and people may wait months for an appointment.
Some researchers say delays in autism diagnosis could shrink with the rise of machine learning—a technology developed as part of artificial-intelligence research.
In particular, they are pinning their hopes on the latest version of machine learning, known as deep learning.
“Machine learning was always a part of the field,” Styner says, “but the methods and applications were never strong enough to actually have clinical impact; that changed with the onset of deep learning.”
“Across the spectrum,” he continues ,“the potential is enormous.”
To make accurate predictions, machine-learning algorithms need vast amounts of training data. That requirement presents a serious challenge in autism research because most data relevant to diagnoses comes from painstaking—and therefore limited—clinical observations.
George Abowd is a scientist with two Children who suffer from autism. “My oldest is a non-speaking individual, and my younger one speaks but has difficulty with communicating effectively,” Abowd says. “I started to get interested in what I could do as a computer scientist to address any of the challenges related to autism.” He added.
The Georgia Tech scientists are investigating sensors to track a range of physiological and behavioral data. In one project, they are using wearable accelerometers to monitor physical movements that could signify problem behaviors, such as self-injury.
“Of course, we will see a lot of advances. We will also see a lot of snake oil,” Shic, co-investigator on a project that has developed a tablet-based app called the Yale Adaptive Multimedia Screener, says. “So we’ve got to be vigilant and suspicious and critical like we’ve been about everything that comes up; just because it’s couched in mathematics doesn’t mean it’s more real.”