Newborn Cry-Based Diagnostic System to Distinguish between Sepsis and Respiratory Distress Syndrome Using Combined Acoustic Features

Diagnostics (Basel). 2022 Nov 15;12(11):2802. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics12112802.


Crying is the only means of communication for a newborn baby with its surrounding environment, but it also provides significant information about the newborn's health, emotions, and needs. The cries of newborn babies have long been known as a biomarker for the diagnosis of pathologies. However, to the best of our knowledge, exploring the discrimination of two pathology groups by means of cry signals is unprecedented. Therefore, this study aimed to identify septic newborns with Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) by employing the Machine Learning (ML) methods of Multilayer Perceptron (MLP) and Support Vector Machine (SVM). Furthermore, the cry signal was analyzed from the following two different perspectives: 1) the musical perspective by studying the spectral feature set of Harmonic Ratio (HR), and 2) the speech processing perspective using the short-term feature set of Gammatone Frequency Cepstral Coefficients (GFCCs). In order to assess the role of employing features from both short-term and spectral modalities in distinguishing the two pathology groups, they were fused in one feature set named the combined features. The hyperparameters (HPs) of the implemented ML approaches were fine-tuned to fit each experiment. Finally, by normalizing and fusing the features originating from the two modalities, the overall performance of the proposed design was improved across all evaluation measures, achieving accuracies of 92.49% and 95.3% by the MLP and SVM classifiers, respectively. The MLP classifier was outperformed in terms of all evaluation measures presented in this study, except for the Area Under Curve of Receiver Operator Characteristics (AUC-ROC), which signifies the ability of the proposed design in class separation. The achieved results highlighted the role of combining features from different levels and modalities for a more powerful analysis of the cry signals, as well as including a neural network (NN)-based classifier. Consequently, attaining a 95.3% accuracy for the separation of two entangled pathology groups of RDS and sepsis elucidated the promising potential for further studies with larger datasets and more pathology groups.

Keywords: MLP; RDS; SVM; cepstral features; sepsis.