Finding objective and quantifiable imaging markers of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) has proven challenging, especially in the military population. Changes in cortical thickness after injury have been reported in animals and in humans, but it is unclear how these alterations manifest in the chronic phase, and it is difficult to characterize accurately with imaging. We used cortical thickness measures derived from Advanced Normalization Tools (ANTs) to predict a continuous demographic variable: age. We trained four different regression models (linear regression, support vector regression, Gaussian process regression, and random forests) to predict age from healthy control brains from publicly available datasets (n = 762). We then used these models to predict brain age in military Service Members with TBI (n = 92) and military Service Members without TBI (n = 34). Our results show that all four models overpredicted age in Service Members with TBI, and the predicted age difference was significantly greater compared with military controls. These data extend previous civilian findings and show that cortical thickness measures may reveal an association of accelerated changes over time with military TBI.
Keywords: ANTs; MRI; OEF/OIF/OND Service Members; TBI; cortical thickness; gray matter; mTBI; mild traumatic brain injury; traumatic brain injury; volumetrics.