Comparison of machine classification algorithms for fibromyalgia: Neuroimages versus self-report

Michael E. Robinson, Andrew M. O'Shea, Jason G. Craggs, Donald D. Price, Janelle E. Letzen, Roland Staud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent studies have posited that machine learning (ML) techniques accurately classify individuals with and without pain solely based on neuroimaging data. These studies claim that self-report is unreliable, making "objective" neuroimaging classification methods imperative. However, the relative performance of ML on neuroimaging and self-report data have not been compared. This study used commonly reported ML algorithms to measure differences between "objective" neuroimaging data and "subjective" self-report (ie, mood and pain intensity) in their ability to discriminate between individuals with and without chronic pain. Structural magnetic resonance imaging data from 26 individuals (14 individuals with fibromyalgia and 12 healthy controls) were processed to derive volumes from 56 brain regions per person. Self-report data included visual analog scale ratings for pain intensity and mood (ie, anger, anxiety, depression, frustration, and fear). Separate models representing brain volumes, mood ratings, and pain intensity ratings were estimated across several ML algorithms. Classification accuracy of brain volumes ranged from 53 to 76%, whereas mood and pain intensity ratings ranged from 79 to 96% and 83 to 96%, respectively. Overall, models derived from self-report data outperformed neuroimaging models by an average of 22%. Although neuroimaging clearly provides useful insights for understanding neural mechanisms underlying pain processing, self-report is reliable and accurate and continues to be clinically vital. Perspective The present study compares neuroimaging, self-reported mood, and self-reported pain intensity data in their ability to classify individuals with and without fibromyalgia using ML algorithms. Overall, models derived from self-reported mood and pain intensity data outperformed structural neuroimaging models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)472-477
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Fibromyalgia
  • Machine learning
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Pain biomarkers
  • Self-report

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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