Comparison of machine learning and semi-quantification algorithms for (I123)FP-CIT classification: the beginning of the end for semi-quantification?

EJNMMI Phys. 2017 Nov 29;4(1):29. doi: 10.1186/s40658-017-0196-1.


Background: Semi-quantification methods are well established in the clinic for assisted reporting of (I123) Ioflupane images. Arguably, these are limited diagnostic tools. Recent research has demonstrated the potential for improved classification performance offered by machine learning algorithms. A direct comparison between methods is required to establish whether a move towards widespread clinical adoption of machine learning algorithms is justified. This study compared three machine learning algorithms with that of a range of semi-quantification methods, using the Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) research database and a locally derived clinical database for validation. Machine learning algorithms were based on support vector machine classifiers with three different sets of features: Voxel intensities Principal components of image voxel intensities Striatal binding radios from the putamen and caudate. Semi-quantification methods were based on striatal binding ratios (SBRs) from both putamina, with and without consideration of the caudates. Normal limits for the SBRs were defined through four different methods: Minimum of age-matched controls Mean minus 1/1.5/2 standard deviations from age-matched controls Linear regression of normal patient data against age (minus 1/1.5/2 standard errors) Selection of the optimum operating point on the receiver operator characteristic curve from normal and abnormal training data Each machine learning and semi-quantification technique was evaluated with stratified, nested 10-fold cross-validation, repeated 10 times.

Results: The mean accuracy of the semi-quantitative methods for classification of local data into Parkinsonian and non-Parkinsonian groups varied from 0.78 to 0.87, contrasting with 0.89 to 0.95 for classifying PPMI data into healthy controls and Parkinson's disease groups. The machine learning algorithms gave mean accuracies between 0.88 to 0.92 and 0.95 to 0.97 for local and PPMI data respectively.

Conclusions: Classification performance was lower for the local database than the research database for both semi-quantitative and machine learning algorithms. However, for both databases, the machine learning methods generated equal or higher mean accuracies (with lower variance) than any of the semi-quantification approaches. The gain in performance from using machine learning algorithms as compared to semi-quantification was relatively small and may be insufficient, when considered in isolation, to offer significant advantages in the clinical context.

Keywords: 123I-FP; DaTSCAN; Machine learning; Parkinson’s disease; Semi-quantification; Support vector machine.