Fully automated detection of formal thought disorder with Time-series Augmented Representations for Detection of Incoherent Speech (TARDIS)

J Biomed Inform. 2022 Feb:126:103998. doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2022.103998. Epub 2022 Jan 19.


Formal thought disorder (ThD) is a clinical sign of schizophrenia amongst other serious mental health conditions. ThD can be recognized by observing incoherent speech - speech in which it is difficult to perceive connections between successive utterances and lacks a clear global theme. Automated assessment of the coherence of speech in patients with schizophrenia has been an active area of research for over a decade, in an effort to develop an objective and reliable instrument through which to quantify ThD. However, this work has largely been conducted in controlled settings using structured interviews and depended upon manual transcription services to render audio recordings amenable to computational analysis. In this paper, we present an evaluation of such automated methods in the context of a fully automated system using Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) in place of a manual transcription service, with "audio diaries" collected in naturalistic settings from participants experiencing Auditory Verbal Hallucinations (AVH). We show that performance lost due to ASR errors can often be restored through the application of Time-Series Augmented Representations for Detection of Incoherent Speech (TARDIS), a novel approach that involves treating the sequence of coherence scores from a transcript as a time-series, providing features for machine learning. With ASR, TARDIS improves average AUC across coherence metrics for detection of severe ThD by 0.09; average correlation with human-labeled derailment scores by 0.10; and average correlation between coherence estimates from manual and ASR-derived transcripts by 0.29. In addition, TARDIS improves the agreement between coherence estimates from manual transcripts and human judgment and correlation with self-reported estimates of AVH symptom severity. As such, TARDIS eliminates a fundamental barrier to the deployment of automated methods to detect linguistic indicators of ThD to monitor and improve clinical care in serious mental illness.

Keywords: Auditory Verbal Hallucination; Automatic Speech Recognition; Coherence in Speech; Formal Thought Disorder; Natural Language Processing; Neural Word Embeddings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Hallucinations
  • Humans
  • Linguistics
  • Machine Learning
  • Schizophrenia*
  • Speech*