Machine Learning Methods for Brain Network Classification: Application to Autism Diagnosis using Cortical Morphological Networks

Ismail Bilgen, Goktug Guvercin, Islem Rekik

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects the brain connectivity at different levels. Nonetheless, non-invasively distinguishing such effects using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) remains very challenging to machine learning diagnostic frameworks due to ASD heterogeneity. So far, existing network neuroscience works mainly focused on functional (derived from functional MRI) and structural (derived from diffusion MRI) brain connectivity, which might not capture relational morphological changes between brain regions. Indeed, machine learning (ML) studies for ASD diagnosis using morphological brain networks derived from conventional T1-weighted MRI are very scarce. To fill this gap, we leverage crowdsourcing by organizing a Kaggle competition to build a pool of machine learning pipelines for neurological disorder diagnosis with application to ASD diagnosis using cortical morphological networks derived from T1-weighted MRI. During the competition, participants were provided with a training dataset and only allowed to check their performance on a public test data. The final evaluation was performed on both public and hidden test datasets based on accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity metrics. Teams were ranked using each performance metric separately and the final ranking was determined based on the mean of all rankings. The first-ranked team achieved 70% accuracy, 72.5% sensitivity, and 67.5% specificity, while the second-ranked team achieved 63.8%, 62.5%, 65% respectively. Leveraging participants to design ML diagnostic methods within a competitive machine learning setting has allowed the exploration and benchmarking of wide spectrum of ML methods for ASD diagnosis using cortical morphological networks.

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