Machine learning detects altered spatial navigation features in outdoor behaviour of Alzheimer’s disease patients

Abhirup Ghosh, Vaisakh Puthusseryppady, Dennis Chan, Cecilia Mascolo, Michael Hornberger

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Impairment of navigation is one of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but to date studies have involved proxy tests of navigation rather than studies of real life behaviour. Here we use GPS tracking to measure ecological outdoor behaviour in AD. The aim was to use data-driven machine learning approaches to explore spatial metrics within real life navigational traces that discriminate AD patients from controls. 15 AD patients and 18 controls underwent tracking of their outdoor navigation over two weeks. Three kinds of spatiotemporal features of segments were extracted, characterising the mobility domain (entropy, segment similarity, distance from home), spatial shape (total turning angle, segment complexity), and temporal characteristics (stop duration). Patients significantly differed from controls on entropy (p-value 0.008), segment similarity (p-value 10−7), and distance from home (p-value 10−14). Graph-based analyses yielded preliminary data indicating that topological features assessing the connectivity of visited locations may also differentiate patients from controls. In conclusion, our results show that specific outdoor navigation features discriminate AD patients from controls, which has significant implication for future AD diagnostics, outcome measures and interventions. Furthermore, this work illustrates how wearables-based sensing of everyday behaviour may be used to deliver ecologically-valid digital biomarkers of AD pathophysiology.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3160
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2022

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