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Open Access Research article

A practical approach to Sasang constitutional diagnosis using vocal features

Jun-Su Jang, Boncho Ku, Young-Su Kim, Jiho Nam, Keun Ho Kim and Jong Yeol Kim*

Author Affiliations

Medical Engineering R&D Group, Medical Research Division, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, 1672 Yuseongdae-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon 305-811, Republic of Korea

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:307  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-307

Published: 7 November 2013



Sasang constitutional medicine (SCM) is a type of tailored medicine that divides human beings into four Sasang constitutional (SC) types. Diagnosis of SC types is crucial to proper treatment in SCM. Voice characteristics have been used as an essential clue for diagnosing SC types. In the past, many studies tried to extract quantitative vocal features to make diagnosis models; however, these studies were flawed by limited data collected from one or a few sites, long recording time, and low accuracy. We propose a practical diagnosis model having only a few variables, which decreases model complexity. This in turn, makes our model appropriate for clinical applications.


A total of 2,341 participants’ voice recordings were used in making a SC classification model and to test the generalization ability of the model. Although the voice data consisted of five vowels and two repeated sentences per participant, we used only the sentence part for our study. A total of 21 features were extracted, and an advanced feature selection method—the least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO)—was applied to reduce the number of variables for classifier learning. A SC classification model was developed using multinomial logistic regression via LASSO.


We compared the proposed classification model to the previous study, which used both sentences and five vowels from the same patient’s group. The classification accuracies for the test set were 47.9% and 40.4% for male and female, respectively. Our result showed that the proposed method was superior to the previous study in that it required shorter voice recordings, is more applicable to practical use, and had better generalization performance.


We proposed a practical SC classification method and showed that our model having fewer variables outperformed the model having many variables in the generalization test. We attempted to reduce the number of variables in two ways: 1) the initial number of candidate features was decreased by considering shorter voice recording, and 2) LASSO was introduced for reducing model complexity. The proposed method is suitable for an actual clinical environment. Moreover, we expect it to yield more stable results because of the model’s simplicity.

Sasang constitution; Diagnosis; Voice; Vocal feature