Visual deep learning of unprocessed neuroimaging characterises dementia subtypes and generalises across non-stereotypic samples


EBioMedicine. 2023 Apr;90:104540. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2023.104540. Epub 2023 Mar 25.


BACKGROUND: Dementia's diagnostic protocols are mostly based on standardised neuroimaging data collected in the Global North from homogeneous samples. In other non-stereotypical samples (participants with diverse admixture, genetics, demographics, MRI signals, or cultural origins), classifications of disease are difficult due to demographic and region-specific sample heterogeneities, lower quality scanners, and non-harmonised pipelines.

METHODS: We implemented a fully automatic computer-vision classifier using deep learning neural networks. A DenseNet was applied on raw (unpreprocessed) data from 3000 participants (behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia-bvFTD, Alzheimer's disease-AD, and healthy controls; both male and female as self-reported by participants). We tested our results in demographically matched and unmatched samples to discard possible biases and performed multiple out-of-sample validations.

FINDINGS: Robust classification results across all groups were achieved from standardised 3T neuroimaging data from the Global North, which also generalised to standardised 3T neuroimaging data from Latin America. Moreover, DenseNet also generalised to non-standardised, routine 1.5T clinical images from Latin America. These generalisations were robust in samples with heterogenous MRI recordings and were not confounded by demographics (i.e., were robust in both matched and unmatched samples, and when incorporating demographic variables in a multifeatured model). Model interpretability analysis using occlusion sensitivity evidenced core pathophysiological regions for each disease (mainly the hippocampus in AD, and the insula in bvFTD) demonstrating biological specificity and plausibility.

INTERPRETATION: The generalisable approach outlined here could be used in the future to aid clinician decision-making in diverse samples.

FUNDING: The specific funding of this article is provided in the acknowledgements section.

PMID:36972630 | PMC:PMC10066533 | DOI:10.1016/j.ebiom.2023.104540