Evaluating imaging biomarkers for neurodegeneration in pre-symptomatic Huntington's disease using machine learning techniques

Neuroimage. 2011 May 15;56(2):788-96. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.04.273. Epub 2010 May 6.


The development of MRI measures as biomarkers for neurodegenerative disease could prove extremely valuable for the assessment of neuroprotective therapies. Much current research is aimed at developing such biomarkers for use in people who are gene-positive for Huntington's disease yet exhibit few or no clinical symptoms of the disease (pre-HD). We acquired structural (T1), diffusion weighted and functional MRI (fMRI) data from 39 pre-HD volunteers and 25 age-matched controls. To determine whether it was possible to decode information about disease state from neuroimaging data, we applied multivariate pattern analysis techniques to several derived voxel-based and segmented region-based datasets. We found that different measures of structural, diffusion weighted, and functional MRI could successfully classify pre-HD and controls using support vector machines (SVM) and linear discriminant analysis (LDA) with up to 76% accuracy. The model producing the highest classification accuracy used LDA with a set of six volume measures from the basal ganglia. Furthermore, using support vector regression (SVR) and linear regression models, we were able to generate quantitative measures of disease progression that were significantly correlated with established measures of disease progression (estimated years to clinical onset, derived from age and genetic information) from several different neuroimaging measures. The best performing regression models used SVR with neuroimaging data from regions within the grey matter (caudate), white matter (corticospinal tract), and fMRI (insular cortex). These results highlight the utility of machine learning analyses in addition to conventional ones. We have shown that several neuroimaging measures contain multivariate patterns of information that are useful for the development of disease-state biomarkers for HD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Asymptomatic Diseases
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / pathology*
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology
  • Young Adult