Deep residual learning for neuroimaging: An application to predict progression to Alzheimer's disease

Anees Abrol, Manish Bhattarai, Alex Fedorov, Yuhui Du, Sergey Plis, Vince Calhoun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The unparalleled performance of deep learning approaches in generic image processing has motivated its extension to neuroimaging data. These approaches learn abstract neuroanatomical and functional brain alterations that could enable exceptional performance in classification of brain disorders, predicting disease progression, and localizing brain abnormalities. New Method: This work investigates the suitability of a modified form of deep residual neural networks (ResNet) for studying neuroimaging data in the specific application of predicting progression from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to Alzheimer's disease (AD). Prediction was conducted first by training the deep models using MCI individuals only, followed by a domain transfer learning version that additionally trained on AD and controls. We also demonstrate a network occlusion based method to localize abnormalities. Results: The implemented framework captured non-linear features that successfully predicted AD progression and also conformed to the spectrum of various clinical scores. In a repeated cross-validated setup, the learnt predictive models showed highly similar peak activations that corresponded to previous AD reports. Comparison with existing methods: The implemented architecture achieved a significant performance improvement over the classical support vector machine and the stacked autoencoder frameworks (p < 0.005), numerically better than state-of-the-art performance using sMRI data alone (> 7% than the second-best performing method) and within 1% of the state-of-the-art performance considering learning using multiple neuroimaging modalities as well. Conclusions: The explored frameworks reflected the high potential of deep learning architectures in learning subtle predictive features and utility in critical applications such as predicting and understanding disease progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108701
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Deep learning
  • MCI to AD progression
  • Residual neural networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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