Precision medicine for Alzheimer's disease (AD) necessitates the development of personalized, reproducible, and neuroscientifically interpretable biomarkers, yet despite remarkable advances, few such biomarkers are available. Also, a comprehensive evaluation of the neurobiological basis and generalizability of the end-to-end machine learning system should be given the highest priority. For this reason, a deep learning model (3D attention network, 3DAN) that can simultaneously capture candidate imaging biomarkers with an attention mechanism module and advance the diagnosis of AD based on structural magnetic resonance imaging is proposed. The generalizability and reproducibility are evaluated using cross-validation on in-house, multicenter (n = 716), and public (n = 1116) databases with an accuracy up to 92%. Significant associations between the classification output and clinical characteristics of AD and mild cognitive impairment (MCI, a middle stage of dementia) groups provide solid neurobiological support for the 3DAN model. The effectiveness of the 3DAN model is further validated by its good performance in predicting the MCI subjects who progress to AD with an accuracy of 72%. Collectively, the findings highlight the potential for structural brain imaging to provide a generalizable, and neuroscientifically interpretable imaging biomarker that can support clinicians in the early diagnosis of AD.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; computer‐aided diagnosis; neurobiological basis; neuroscientifically interpretable biomarkers; structural magnetic resonance imaging.
© 2020 The Authors. Published by WILEY‐VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.