Neuron-level explainable AI for Alzheimer's Disease assessment from fundus images

Sci Rep. 2024 Apr 2;14(1):7710. doi: 10.1038/s41598-024-58121-8.


Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease and the leading cause of dementia. Early diagnosis is critical for patients to benefit from potential intervention and treatment. The retina has emerged as a plausible diagnostic site for AD detection owing to its anatomical connection with the brain. However, existing AI models for this purpose have yet to provide a rational explanation behind their decisions and have not been able to infer the stage of the disease's progression. Along this direction, we propose a novel model-agnostic explainable-AI framework, called Granu la ̲ r Neuron-le v ̲ el Expl a ̲ iner (LAVA), an interpretation prototype that probes into intermediate layers of the Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) models to directly assess the continuum of AD from the retinal imaging without the need for longitudinal or clinical evaluations. This innovative approach aims to validate retinal vasculature as a biomarker and diagnostic modality for evaluating Alzheimer's Disease. Leveraged UK Biobank cognitive tests and vascular morphological features demonstrate significant promise and effectiveness of LAVA in identifying AD stages across the progression continuum.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s Disease; Continuum; Deep learning; Explainable-AI; UK Biobank.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / diagnostic imaging
  • Fundus Oculi
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases*
  • Neurons
  • Retina / diagnostic imaging