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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Autism Research, the Navy, and PTSD

Jennifer McDermott reports at Associated Press:
The Navy is paying for research into an app to screen for autism in the hopes that it could eventually be tweaked to look for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
While developmental and trauma disorders might at first appear strange bedfellows, the researchers and a PTSD expert for the VA say it could be an exciting new direction.
Facial expressions can indicate the presence of autism, PTSD and other disorders. The Autism & Beyond app uses a smartphone camera and an algorithm to read children's facial expressions and assess their emotional responses.
The app, which uses a general algorithm, could be expanded to PTSD to monitor people over time if speech and other signals are taken into account, according to Pedja Neskovic, who oversees the project in the Office of Naval Research.
The app, as it's designed for autism, shows funny videos designed to make children smile, laugh or express emotions. The way their head, lips, eyes and nose move is recorded, encoded and analyzed with the camera and app. If a child isn't responding, that's also classified.
Duke University is studying whether it's feasible for caregivers to screen kids for autism using a mobile phone at home. The app can be downloaded for free.