Feature Selection and Combination of Information in the Functional Brain Connectome for Discrimination of Mild Cognitive Impairment and Analyses of Altered Brain Patterns

Front Aging Neurosci. 2020 Feb 19;12:28. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2020.00028. eCollection 2020.


Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is often considered a critical time window for predicting early conversion to Alzheimer's disease (AD). Brain functional connectome data (i.e., functional connections, global and nodal graph metrics) based on resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) provides numerous information about brain networks and has been used to discriminate normal controls (NCs) from subjects with MCI. In this paper, Student's t-tests and group-least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (group-LASSO) were used to extract functional connections with significant differences and the most discriminative network nodes, respectively. Based on group-LASSO, the middle temporal, inferior temporal, lingual, posterior cingulate, and middle frontal gyri were the most predominant brain regions for nodal observation in MCI patients. Nodal graph metrics (within-module degree, participation coefficient, and degree centrality) showed the maximum discriminative ability. To effectively combine the multipattern information, we employed the multiple kernel learning support vector machine (MKL-SVM). Combined with functional connectome information, the MKL-SVM achieved a good classification performance (area under the receiving operating characteristic curve = 0.9728). Additionally, the altered brain connectome pattern revealed that functional connectivity was generally decreased in the whole-brain network, whereas graph theory topological attributes of some special nodes in the brain network were increased in MCI patients. Our findings demonstrate that optimal feature selection and combination of all connectome features (i.e., functional connections, global and nodal graph metrics) can achieve good performance in discriminating NCs from MCI subjects. Thus, the combination of functional connections and global and nodal graph metrics of brain networks can predict the occurrence of MCI and contribute to the early clinical diagnosis of AD.

Keywords: functional connectivity; graph theory; mild cognitive impairment; multiple kernel learning; resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging.