Machine learning fMRI classifier delineates subgroups of schizophrenia patients

Schizophr Res. 2014 Dec;160(1-3):196-200. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2014.10.033. Epub 2014 Nov 11.


Background: The search for a validated neuroimaging-based brain marker in psychiatry has thus far been fraught with both clinical and methodological difficulties. The present study aimed to apply a novel data-driven machine-learning approach to functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) data obtained during a cognitive task in order to delineate the neural mechanisms involved in two schizophrenia subgroups: schizophrenia patients with and without Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Methods: 16 schizophrenia patients with OCD ("schizo-obsessive"), 17 pure schizophrenia patients, and 20 healthy controls underwent fMRI while performing a working memory task. A whole brain search for activation clusters of cognitive load was performed using a recently developed data-driven multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) approach, termed Searchlight Based Feature Extraction (SBFE), and which yields a robust fMRI-based classifier.

Results: The SBFE successfully classified the two schizophrenia groups with 91% accuracy based on activations in the right intraparietal sulcus (r-IPS), which further correlated with reduced symptom severity among schizo-obsessive patients.

Conclusions: The results indicate that this novel SBFE approach can successfully delineate between symptom dimensions in the context of complex psychiatric morbidity.

Keywords: MVPA; OCD; Schizo-obsessive; Searchlight; n-back; r-IPS.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / complications
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / physiopathology
  • Schizophrenia / complications
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis*
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult