Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a complex psychiatric disorder that affects the lives of hundreds of millions of individuals around the globe. Even today, researchers debate if morphological alterations in the brain are linked to MDD, likely due to the heterogeneity of this disorder. The application of deep learning tools to neuroimaging data, capable of capturing complex non-linear patterns, has the potential to provide diagnostic and predictive biomarkers for MDD. However, previous attempts to demarcate MDD patients and healthy controls (HC) based on segmented cortical features via linear machine learning approaches have reported low accuracies. In this study, we used globally representative data from the ENIGMA-MDD working group containing an extensive sample of people with MDD (N=2,772) and HC (N=4,240), which allows a comprehensive analysis with generalizable results. Based on the hypothesis that integration of vertex-wise cortical features can improve classification performance, we evaluated the classification of a DenseNet and a Support Vector Machine (SVM), with the expectation that the former would outperform the latter. As we analyzed a multi-site sample, we additionally applied the ComBat harmonization tool to remove potential nuisance effects of site. We found that both classifiers exhibited close to chance performance (balanced accuracy DenseNet: 51%; SVM: 53%), when estimated on unseen sites. Slightly higher classification performance (balanced accuracy DenseNet: 58%; SVM: 55%) was found when the cross-validation folds contained subjects from all sites, indicating site effect. In conclusion, the integration of vertex-wise morphometric features and the use of the non-linear classifier did not lead to the differentiability between MDD and HC. Our results support the notion that MDD classification on this combination of features and classifiers is unfeasible.
The deviation between chronological age and age predicted from neuroimaging data has been identified as a sensitive risk-marker of cross-disorder brain changes, growing into a cornerstone of biological age-research. However, Machine Learning models underlying the field do not consider uncertainty, thereby confounding results with training data density and variability. Also, existing models are commonly based on homogeneous training sets, often not independently validated, and cannot be shared due to data protection issues. Here, we introduce an uncertainty-aware, shareable, and transparent Monte-Carlo Dropout Composite-Quantile-Regression (MCCQR) Neural Network trained on N=10,691 datasets from the German National Cohort. The MCCQR model provides robust, distribution-free uncertainty quantification in high-dimensional neuroimaging data, achieving lower error rates compared to existing models across ten recruitment centers and in three independent validation samples (N=4,004). In two examples, we demonstrate that it prevents spurious associations and increases power to detect accelerated brain-aging. We make the pre-trained model publicly available.
Age prediction based on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) data of the brain is a biomarker to quantify the progress of brain diseases and aging. Current approaches rely on preparing the data with multiple preprocessing steps, such as registering voxels to a standardized brain atlas, which yields a significant computational overhead, hampers widespread usage and results in the predicted brain-age to be sensitive to preprocessing parameters. Here we describe a 3D Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) based on the ResNet architecture being trained on raw, non-registered T$_ 1$-weighted MRI data of N=10,691 samples from the German National Cohort and additionally applied and validated in N=2,173 samples from three independent studies using transfer learning. For comparison, state-of-the-art models using preprocessed neuroimaging data are trained and validated on the same samples. The 3D CNN using raw neuroimaging data predicts age with a mean average deviation of 2.84 years, outperforming the state-of-the-art brain-age models using preprocessed data. Since our approach is invariant to preprocessing software and parameter choices, it enables faster, more robust and more accurate brain-age modeling.