Self-supervised Transfer Learning of Physiological Representations from Free-living Wearable Data

Dimitris Spathis, Ignacio Pozuelo, Soren Brage, Nicholas J. Wareham, and Cecilia Mascolo (University of Cambridge)

View paper in the ACM journal

Abstract: Wearable devices such as smartwatches are becoming increasingly popular tools for objectively monitoring physical activity in free-living conditions. To date, research has primarily focused on the purely supervised task of human activity recognition, demonstrating limited success in inferring high-level health outcomes from low-level signals. Here, we present a novel _self-supervised_ representation learning method using activity and heart rate (HR) signals without semantic labels. With a deep neural network, we set HR responses as the _supervisory signal_ for the activity data, leveraging their underlying physiological relationship. In addition, we propose a custom quantile loss function that accounts for the long-tailed HR distribution present in the general population. We evaluate our model in the largest free-living combined-sensing dataset (comprising >280k hours of wrist accelerometer & wearable ECG data). Our contributions are two-fold: i) the pre-training task creates a model that can accurately forecast HR based only on cheap activity sensors, and ii) we leverage the information captured through this task by proposing a simple method to aggregate the learnt latent representations (embeddings) from the window-level to user-level. Notably, we show that the embeddings can generalize in various downstream tasks through transfer learning with linear classifiers, capturing physiologically meaningful, personalized information. For instance, they can be used to predict variables associated with individuals' health, fitness and demographic characteristics (AUC >70), outperforming unsupervised autoencoders and common bio-markers. Overall, we propose the first multimodal self-supervised method for behavioral and physiological data with implications for large-scale health and lifestyle monitoring.


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