Mobile App for Autism Screening Yields Useful Data

A Duke study of an iPhone app to screen young children for signs of autism has found that the app is easy to use, welcomed by caregivers and good at producing reliable scientific data. The study, described June 1 in an open access journal npj Digital Medicine, points the way to broader, easier access to screening for autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

The app first administers caregiver consent forms and survey questions and then uses the phone's 'selfie' camera to collect videos of young children's reactions while they watch movies designed to elicit autism risk behaviors, such as patterns of emotion and attention, on the device's screen.

The videos of the child's reactions are sent to the study's servers, where automatic behavioral coding software tracks the movement of video landmarks on the child's face and quantifies the child's emotions and attention. For example, in response to a short movie of bubbles floating across the screen, the video coding algorithm looks for movements of the face that would indicate joy.

In this study, children whose parents rated their child as having a high number of autism symptoms showed less frequent expressions of joy in response to the bubbles.

Autism screening in young children is presently done in clinical settings, rather than the child's natural environment, and highly trained people are needed to both administer the test and analyze the results. "That's not scalable," said New York University's Helen Egger, M.D., one of the co-leaders of the study.

This study, from informed consent to data collection and preliminary analysis, was conducted with an app available for free from Apple Store and based on Apple's ResearchKit open source development platform.

In one year, there were more than 10,000 downloads of the app, and 1,756 families with children aged one to six years participated in the study. Parents completed 5,618 surveys and uploaded 4,441 videos. Usable data were collected on 88 percent of the uploaded videos, demonstrating for the first time the feasibility of this type of tool for observing and coding behavior in natural environments.

"This demonstrates the feasibility of this approach," said Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., Director of the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development and co-leader of the study. "Many caregivers were willing to participate, the data were high quality and the video analysis algorithms produced results consistent with the scoring we produce in our autism program here at Duke."

An app-based approach can reach into underserved areas better and make it much easier to track an individual child's changes over time, said Guillermo Sapiro, Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. School Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke and a co-leader of the study.

"This technology has the potential to transform how we screen and monitor children's development," Sapiro said.

The reported project was a 12-month study. The entire test took about 20 minutes to complete, with only a few minutes involving the child.

The app also included a widely used questionnaire that screens for autism. Based on the questionnaire, participating families received some feedback from the app about what the child's apparent risk for autism might be. If parents reported a high level of autism symptoms on the questionnaire, they were encouraged to seek further consultation with their health care providers.

Helen L Egger, Geraldine Dawson, Jordan Hashemi, Kimberly LH Carpenter, Steven Espinosa, Kathleen Campbell, Samuel Brotkin, Jana Schaich-Borg, Qiang Qiu, Mariano Tepper, Jeffrey P Baker, Richard A Bloomfield Jr, Guillermo Sapiro.
Automatic emotion and attention analysis of young children at home: a ResearchKit autism feasibility study.
npj Digital Medicinevolume 1, Article number: 20 (2018). doi: 10.1038/s41746-018-0024-6.

Most Popular Now

Open Call SC1-DTH-01-2019: Big Data and …

Currently available methods and strategies for diagnosis and treatment of cancer help clinicians continuously improve quality of care and prevent cancer deaths in the population. Accurate risk assessment, availability of...

Cerner Selected for NHS Framework to Sup…

Integrated Care Systems (ICS) and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) aim to deliver the best possible quality of health and care, shift to value-based care and proactively improve outcomes for...

Brainlab and Magic Leap Partner in Digit…

Brainlab has announced a strategic development partnership with Florida-based Magic Leap, a developer of proprietary spatial computing solutions that help users enrich their real world experience by integrating digital content...

The Merck Accelerator Program 2019

The Merck Accelerator is looking for real partners so that you can work together in shaping the future. With programs in the headquarters in Germany, in China and the Satellites...

Whole-Brain Connectome Maps Teach Artifi…

Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) neurologists have developed a new method based on artificial intelligence that may eventually help both patients and doctors weigh the pros and cons of...

MEDICA 2018: The Starting Block for Many…

12 - 15 November 2018, Düsseldorf, Germany. MEDICA, the world’s leading medical trade fair in Düsseldorf which attracts over 5,000 exhibitors from around 70 countries, is becoming an even bigger hotspot...

MEDICA 2018 Presents the Future of Medic…

12 - 15 November 2018, Düsseldorf, Germany. Artificial intelligence, Big Data or IoT (Internet of Things) - we would be hard pressed to find a sector that doesn’t have these terms...

Artificial Intelligence for Health: ITU …

The ITU Focus Group on 'AI for Health' (FG-AI4H), created in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), has issued a Call for Proposals to identify compelling use cases of...

Siemens Healthineers and STORZ MEDICAL P…

On the occasion of the 70th annual congress of the German Society for Urology, DGU, Siemens Healthineers and STORZ MEDICAL have announced plans to enter into a sales partnership agreement...

Spinal Cord Stimulation, Physical Therap…

Spinal cord stimulation and physical therapy have helped a man paralyzed since 2013 regain his ability to stand and walk with assistance. The results, achieved in a research collaboration between...

Sandoz Healthcare Access Challenge #Sand…

Sandoz, the Novartis generics and biosimilars division, today announces the launch of the second Sandoz Healthcare Access Challenge (HACk). The #SandozHACk is a global competition that invites entrepreneurs and innovators...

Connecting Care Goes Live with a Care Co…

The Connecting Care Interoperability Programme has gone live with its first Care Connect FHIR API so staff working with homeless and vulnerable people can see if they have a prescription...