Using machine learning to quantify structural MRI neurodegeneration patterns of Alzheimer's disease into dementia score: Independent validation on 8,834 images from ADNI, AIBL, OASIS, and MIRIAD databases

Hum Brain Mapp. 2020 Oct 1;41(14):4127-4147. doi: 10.1002/hbm.25115. Epub 2020 Jul 2.


Biomarkers for dementia of Alzheimer's type (DAT) are sought to facilitate accurate prediction of the disease onset, ideally predating the onset of cognitive deterioration. T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a commonly used neuroimaging modality for measuring brain structure in vivo, potentially providing information enabling the design of biomarkers for DAT. We propose a novel biomarker using structural MRI volume-based features to compute a similarity score for the individual's structural patterns relative to those observed in the DAT group. We employed ensemble-learning framework that combines structural features in most discriminative ROIs to create an aggregate measure of neurodegeneration in the brain. This classifier is trained on 423 stable normal control (NC) and 330 DAT subjects, where clinical diagnosis is likely to have the highest certainty. Independent validation on 8,834 unseen images from ADNI, AIBL, OASIS, and MIRIAD Alzheimer's disease (AD) databases showed promising potential to predict the development of DAT depending on the time-to-conversion (TTC). Classification performance on stable versus progressive mild cognitive impairment (MCI) groups achieved an AUC of 0.81 for TTC of 6 months and 0.73 for TTC of up to 7 years, achieving state-of-the-art results. The output score, indicating similarity to patterns seen in DAT, provides an intuitive measure of how closely the individual's brain features resemble the DAT group. This score can be used for assessing the presence of AD structural atrophy patterns in normal aging and MCI stages, as well as monitoring the progression of the individual's brain along with the disease course.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; cross-database independent validation; dementia of Alzheimer's type; dementia score; disease progression; ensemble learning; longitudinal diagnostic stratification; magnetic resonance imaging; probabilistic classifier; prognosis prediction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Biomarkers
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnostic imaging
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / pathology*
  • Datasets as Topic
  • Disease Progression*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Prognosis
  • Supervised Machine Learning
  • Time Factors


  • Biomarkers

Grant support