• Applying Machine Learning to Kinematic and Eye Movement Features of a Movement Imitation Task to Predict Autism Diagnosis

      Vabalas, Andrius; email: andrius.vabalas@manchester.ac.uk; Gowen, Emma; Poliakoff, Ellen; Casson, Alexander J. (Nature Publishing Group UK, 2020-05-20)
      Abstract: Autism is a developmental condition currently identified by experts using observation, interview, and questionnaire techniques and primarily assessing social and communication deficits. Motor function and movement imitation are also altered in autism and can be measured more objectively. In this study, motion and eye tracking data from a movement imitation task were combined with supervised machine learning methods to classify 22 autistic and 22 non-autistic adults. The focus was on a reliable machine learning application. We have used nested validation to develop models and further tested the models with an independent data sample. Feature selection was aimed at selection stability to assure result interpretability. Our models predicted diagnosis with 73% accuracy from kinematic features, 70% accuracy from eye movement features and 78% accuracy from combined features. We further explored features which were most important for predictions to better understand movement imitation differences in autism. Consistent with the behavioural results, most discriminative features were from the experimental condition in which non-autistic individuals tended to successfully imitate unusual movement kinematics while autistic individuals tended to fail. Machine learning results show promise that future work could aid in the diagnosis process by providing quantitative tests to supplement current qualitative ones.