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, 44 (3), 278-297

Machine Learning in Autistic Spectrum Disorder Behavioral Research: A Review and Ways Forward


Machine Learning in Autistic Spectrum Disorder Behavioral Research: A Review and Ways Forward

Fadi Thabtah. Inform Health Soc Care.


Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a mental disorder that retards acquisition of linguistic, communication, cognitive, and social skills and abilities. Despite being diagnosed with ASD, some individuals exhibit outstanding scholastic, non-academic, and artistic capabilities, in such cases posing a challenging task for scientists to provide answers. In the last few years, ASD has been investigated by social and computational intelligence scientists utilizing advanced technologies such as machine learning to improve diagnostic timing, precision, and quality. Machine learning is a multidisciplinary research topic that employs intelligent techniques to discover useful concealed patterns, which are utilized in prediction to improve decision making. Machine learning techniques such as support vector machines, decision trees, logistic regressions, and others, have been applied to datasets related to autism in order to construct predictive models. These models claim to enhance the ability of clinicians to provide robust diagnoses and prognoses of ASD. However, studies concerning the use of machine learning in ASD diagnosis and treatment suffer from conceptual, implementation, and data issues such as the way diagnostic codes are used, the type of feature selection employed, the evaluation measures chosen, and class imbalances in data among others. A more serious claim in recent studies is the development of a new method for ASD diagnoses based on machine learning. This article critically analyses these recent investigative studies on autism, not only articulating the aforementioned issues in these studies but also recommending paths forward that enhance machine learning use in ASD with respect to conceptualization, implementation, and data. Future studies concerning machine learning in autism research are greatly benefitted by such proposals.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; artificial intelligence; classification; data analysis; feature selection; machine learning; predictive models.

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