We currently observe a disconcerting phenomenon in machine learning studies in psychiatry: While we would expect larger samples to yield better results due to the availability of more data, larger machine learning studies consistently show much weaker performance than the numerous small-scale studies. Here, we systematically investigated this effect focusing on one of the most heavily studied questions in the field, namely the classification of patients suffering from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and healthy controls. Drawing upon a balanced sample of $N = 1,868$ MDD patients and healthy controls from our recent international Predictive Analytics Competition (PAC), we first trained and tested a classification model on the full dataset which yielded an accuracy of 61%. Next, we mimicked the process by which researchers would draw samples of various sizes ($N=4$ to $N=150$) from the population and showed a strong risk of overestimation. Specifically, for small sample sizes ($N=20$), we observe accuracies of up to 95%. For medium sample sizes ($N=100$) accuracies up to 75% were found. Importantly, further investigation showed that sufficiently large test sets effectively protect against performance overestimation whereas larger datasets per se do not. While these results question the validity of a substantial part of the current literature, we outline the relatively low-cost remedy of larger test sets.
Transgender individuals show brain structural alterations that differ from their biological sex as well as their perceived gender. To substantiate evidence that the brain structure of transgender individuals differs from male and female, we use a combined multivariate and univariate approach. Gray matter segments resulting from voxel-based morphometry preprocessing of N = 1753 cisgender (CG) healthy participants were used to train (N = 1402) and validate (20% hold-out N = 351) a support vector machine classifying the biological sex. As a second validation, we classified N = 1104 patients with depression. A third validation was performed using the matched CG sample of the transgender women (TW) application sample. Subsequently, the classifier was applied to N = 25 TW. Finally, we compared brain volumes of CG-men, women and TW pre/post treatment (CHT) in a univariate analysis controlling for sexual orientation, age and total brain volume. The application of our biological sex classifier to the transgender sample resulted in a significantly lower true positive rate (TPR-male = 56.0%). The TPR did not differ between CG-individuals with (TPR-male = 86.9%) and without depression (TPR-male = 88.5%). The univariate analysis of the transgender application sample revealed that TW pre/post treatment show brain structural differences from CG-women and CG-men in the putamen and insula, as well as the whole-brain analysis. Our results support the hypothesis that brain structure in TW differs from brain structure of their biological sex (male) as well as their perceived gender (female). This finding substantiates evidence that transgender individuals show specific brain structural alterations leading to a different pattern of brain structure than CG individuals.