Distributed Intrinsic Functional Connectivity Patterns Predict Diagnostic Status in Large Autism Cohort.
ABSTRACT: Diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) currently relies on behavioral observations because brain markers are unknown. Machine learning approaches can identify patterns in imaging data that predict diagnostic status, but most studies using functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI) data achieved only modest accuracies of 60-80%. We used conditional random forest (CRF), an ensemble learning technique protected against bias from feature correlation (which exists in fcMRI matrices). We selected 252 low-motion resting-state functional MRI scans from the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange, including 126 typically developing (TD) and 126 ASD participants, matched for age, nonverbal IQ, and head motion. A matrix of functional connectivities between 220 functionally defined regions of interest was used for diagnostic classification. In several runs, we achieved accuracies of 92-99% for classifiers with >300 features (most informative connections). Features, including pericentral somatosensory and motor regions, were disproportionately informative. Findings differed partially from a previous study in the same sample that used feature selection with random forest (which is biased by feature correlations). External validation in a smaller in-house data set, however, achieved only 67-71% accuracy. The large number of features in optimal models can be attributed to etiological heterogeneity under the clinical ASD umbrella. Lower accuracy in external validation is expected due to differences in unknown composition of ASD variants across samples. High accuracy in the main data set is unlikely due to noise overfitting, but rather indicates optimized characterization of a given cohort.
Project description:Despite consensus on the neurological nature of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), brain biomarkers remain unknown and diagnosis continues to be based on behavioral criteria. Growing evidence suggests that brain abnormalities in ASD occur at the level of interconnected networks; however, previous attempts using functional connectivity data for diagnostic classification have reached only moderate accuracy. We selected 252 low-motion resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI) scans from the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (ABIDE) including typically developing (TD) and ASD participants (n = 126 each), matched for age, non-verbal IQ, and head motion. A matrix of functional connectivities between 220 functionally defined regions of interest was used for diagnostic classification, implementing several machine learning tools. While support vector machines in combination with particle swarm optimization and recursive feature elimination performed modestly (with accuracies for validation datasets <70%), diagnostic classification reached a high accuracy of 91% with random forest (RF), a nonparametric ensemble learning method. Among the 100 most informative features (connectivities), for which this peak accuracy was achieved, participation of somatosensory, default mode, visual, and subcortical regions stood out. Whereas some of these findings were expected, given previous findings of default mode abnormalities and atypical visual functioning in ASD, the prominent role of somatosensory regions was remarkable. The finding of peak accuracy for 100 interregional functional connectivities further suggests that brain biomarkers of ASD may be regionally complex and distributed, rather than localized.
Project description:Machine learning techniques have been implemented to reveal brain features that distinguish people with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) from typically developing (TD) peers. However, it remains unknown whether different neuroimaging modalities are equally informative for diagnostic classification. We combined anatomical magnetic resonance imaging (aMRI), diffusion weighted imaging (DWI), and functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI) using conditional random forest (CRF) for supervised learning to compare how informative each modality was in diagnostic classification. In-house data (N?=?93) included 47 TD and 46 ASD participants, matched on age, motion, and nonverbal IQ. Four main analyses consistently indicated that fcMRI variables were significantly more informative than anatomical variables from aMRI and DWI. This was found (1) when the top 100 variables from CRF (run separately in each modality) were combined for multimodal CRF; (2) when only 19 top variables reaching >67% accuracy in each modality were combined in multimodal CRF; and (3) when the large number of initial variables (before dimension reduction) potentially biasing comparisons in favor of fcMRI was reduced using a less granular region of interest scheme. Consistent superiority of fcMRI was even found (4) when 100 variables per modality were randomly selected, removing any such potential bias. Greater informative value of functional than anatomical modalities may relate to the nature of fcMRI data, reflecting more closely behavioral condition, which is also the basis of diagnosis, whereas brain anatomy may be more reflective of neurodevelopmental history.
Project description:Despite enthusiasm about the potential for using fMRI-based functional connectomes in the development of biomarkers for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the literature is full of negative findings-failures to distinguish ASD functional connectomes from those of typically developing controls (TD)-and positive findings that are inconsistent across studies. Here, we report on a new study designed to either better differentiate ASD from TD functional connectomes-or, alternatively, to refine our understanding of the factors underlying the current state of affairs. We scanned individuals with ASD and controls both at rest and while watching videos with social content. Using multiband fMRI across repeat sessions, we improved both data quantity and scanning duration by collecting up to 2?hr of data per individual. This is about 50 times the typical number of temporal samples per individual in ASD fcMRI studies. We obtained functional connectomes that were discriminable, allowing for near-perfect individual identification regardless of diagnosis, and equally reliable in both groups. However, contrary to what one might expect, we did not consistently or robustly observe in the ASD group either reductions in similarity to TD functional connectivity (FC) patterns or shared atypical FC patterns. Accordingly, FC-based predictions of diagnosis group achieved accuracy levels around chance. However, using the same approaches to predict scan type (rest vs. video) achieved near-perfect accuracy. Our findings suggest that neither the limitations of resting state as a "task," data resolution, data quantity, or scan duration can be considered solely responsible for failures to differentiate ASD from TD functional connectomes.
Project description:OBJECTIVES:Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are diagnosed based on early-manifesting clinical symptoms, including markedly impaired social communication. We assessed the viability of resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI) connectivity measures as diagnostic biomarkers for ASD and investigated which connectivity features are predictive of a diagnosis. METHODS:Rs-fMRI scans from 59 high functioning males with ASD and 59 age- and IQ-matched typically developing (TD) males were used to build a series of machine learning classifiers. Classification features were obtained using 3 sets of brain regions. Another set of classifiers was built from participants' scores on behavioral metrics. An additional age and IQ-matched cohort of 178 individuals (89 ASD; 89 TD) from the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (ABIDE) open-access dataset (http://fcon_1000.projects.nitrc.org/indi/abide/) were included for replication. RESULTS:High classification accuracy was achieved through several rs-fMRI methods (peak accuracy 76.67%). However, classification via behavioral measures consistently surpassed rs-fMRI classifiers (peak accuracy 95.19%). The class probability estimates, P(ASD|fMRI data), from brain-based classifiers significantly correlated with scores on a measure of social functioning, the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), as did the most informative features from 2 of the 3 sets of brain-based features. The most informative connections predominantly originated from regions strongly associated with social functioning. CONCLUSIONS:While individuals can be classified as having ASD with statistically significant accuracy from their rs-fMRI scans alone, this method falls short of biomarker standards. Classification methods provided further evidence that ASD functional connectivity is characterized by dysfunction of large-scale functional networks, particularly those involved in social information processing.
Project description:Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI) studies of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have suggested atypical patterns of activation and long-distance connectivity for diverse tasks and networks in ASD. We explored the regional homogeneity (ReHo) approach in ASD, which is analogous to conventional fcMRI, but focuses on local connectivity. FMRI data of 26 children with ASD and 29 typically developing (TD) children were acquired during continuous task performance (visual search). Effects of motion and task were removed and Kendall's coefficient of concordance (KCC) was computed, based on the correlation of the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) time series for each voxel and its six nearest neighbors. ReHo was lower in the ASD than the TD group in superior parietal and anterior prefrontal regions. Inverse effects of greater ReHo in the ASD group were detected in lateral and medial temporal regions, predominantly in the right hemisphere. Our findings suggest that ReHo is a sensitive measure for detecting cortical abnormalities in autism. However, impact of methodological factors (such as spatial resolution) on ReHo require further investigation.
Project description:Growing evidence suggests that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) involves abnormalities of multiple functional networks. Neuroimaging studies of ASD have therefore increasingly focused on connectivity. Many functional connectivity (fcMRI) studies have reported network underconnectivity in children and adults with ASD. However, there are notable inconsistencies, with some studies reporting overconnectivity. A previous literature survey suggested that a few methodological factors play a crucial role in differential fcMRI outcomes. Using three ASD data sets (two task-related, one resting state) from 54 ASD and 51 typically developing (TD) participants (ages 9-18 years), we examined the impact of four methodological factors: type of pipeline (co-activation vs. intrinsic analysis, related to temporal filtering and removal of task-related effects), seed selection, field of view (whole brain vs. limited ROIs), and dataset. Significant effects were found for type of pipeline, field of view, and dataset. Notably, for each dataset results ranging from robust underconnectivity to robust overconnectivity were detected, depending on the type of pipeline, with intrinsic fcMRI analyses (low bandpass filter and task regressor) predominantly yielding overconnectivity in ASD, but co-activation analyses (no low bandpass filter or task removal) mostly generating underconnectivity findings. These results suggest that methodological variables have dramatic impact on group differences reported in fcMRI studies. Improved awareness of their implications appears indispensible in fcMRI studies when inferences about "underconnectivity" or "overconnectivity" in ASD are made. In the absence of a gold standard for functional connectivity, the combination of different methodological approaches promises a more comprehensive understanding of connectivity in ASD.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The standard approaches to diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) evaluate between 20 and 100 behaviors and take several hours to complete. This has in part contributed to long wait times for a diagnosis and subsequent delays in access to therapy. We hypothesize that the use of machine learning analysis on home video can speed the diagnosis without compromising accuracy. We have analyzed item-level records from 2 standard diagnostic instruments to construct machine learning classifiers optimized for sparsity, interpretability, and accuracy. In the present study, we prospectively test whether the features from these optimized models can be extracted by blinded nonexpert raters from 3-minute home videos of children with and without ASD to arrive at a rapid and accurate machine learning autism classification. METHODS AND FINDINGS:We created a mobile web portal for video raters to assess 30 behavioral features (e.g., eye contact, social smile) that are used by 8 independent machine learning models for identifying ASD, each with >94% accuracy in cross-validation testing and subsequent independent validation from previous work. We then collected 116 short home videos of children with autism (mean age = 4 years 10 months, SD = 2 years 3 months) and 46 videos of typically developing children (mean age = 2 years 11 months, SD = 1 year 2 months). Three raters blind to the diagnosis independently measured each of the 30 features from the 8 models, with a median time to completion of 4 minutes. Although several models (consisting of alternating decision trees, support vector machine [SVM], logistic regression (LR), radial kernel, and linear SVM) performed well, a sparse 5-feature LR classifier (LR5) yielded the highest accuracy (area under the curve [AUC]: 92% [95% CI 88%-97%]) across all ages tested. We used a prospectively collected independent validation set of 66 videos (33 ASD and 33 non-ASD) and 3 independent rater measurements to validate the outcome, achieving lower but comparable accuracy (AUC: 89% [95% CI 81%-95%]). Finally, we applied LR to the 162-video-feature matrix to construct an 8-feature model, which achieved 0.93 AUC (95% CI 0.90-0.97) on the held-out test set and 0.86 on the validation set of 66 videos. Validation on children with an existing diagnosis limited the ability to generalize the performance to undiagnosed populations. CONCLUSIONS:These results support the hypothesis that feature tagging of home videos for machine learning classification of autism can yield accurate outcomes in short time frames, using mobile devices. Further work will be needed to confirm that this approach can accelerate autism diagnosis at scale.
Project description:It has been proposed that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is associated with difficulties perceiving the internal state of one's body (i.e., impaired interoception), causing the socio-emotional deficits which are a diagnostic feature of the condition. However, research indicates that alexithymia - characterized by difficulties in recognizing emotions from internal bodily sensations - is also linked to atypical interoception. Elevated rates of alexithymia in the autistic population have been shown to underpin several socio-emotional impairments thought to be symptomatic of ASD, raising the possibility that interoceptive difficulties in ASD are also due to co-occurring alexithymia. Following this line of inquiry, the present study examined the relative impact of alexithymia and autism on interoceptive accuracy (IA). Across two experiments, it was found that alexithymia, not autism, was associated with atypical interoception. Results indicate that interoceptive impairments should not be considered a feature of ASD, but instead due to co-occurring alexithymia.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) coordinates a labor-intensive process to measure the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among children in the United States. Random forests methods have shown promise in speeding up this process, but they lag behind human classification accuracy by about 5%. We explore whether more recently available document classification algorithms can close this gap. MATERIALS AND METHODS:Using data gathered from a single surveillance site, we applied 8 supervised learning algorithms to predict whether children meet the case definition for ASD based solely on the words in their evaluations. We compared the algorithms' performance across 10 random train-test splits of the data, using classification accuracy, F1 score, and number of positive calls to evaluate their potential use for surveillance. RESULTS:Across the 10 train-test cycles, the random forest and support vector machine with Naive Bayes features (NB-SVM) each achieved slightly more than 87% mean accuracy. The NB-SVM produced significantly more false negatives than false positives (P = 0.027), but the random forest did not, making its prevalence estimates very close to the true prevalence in the data. The best-performing neural network performed similarly to the random forest on both measures. DISCUSSION:The random forest performed as well as more recently available models like the NB-SVM and the neural network, and it also produced good prevalence estimates. NB-SVM may not be a good candidate for use in a fully-automated surveillance workflow due to increased false negatives. More sophisticated algorithms, like hierarchical convolutional neural networks, may not be feasible to train due to characteristics of the data. Current algorithms might perform better if the data are abstracted and processed differently and if they take into account information about the children in addition to their evaluations. CONCLUSION:Deep learning models performed similarly to traditional machine learning methods at predicting the clinician-assigned case status for CDC's autism surveillance system. While deep learning methods had limited benefit in this task, they may have applications in other surveillance systems.