GAMER MRI: Gated-attention mechanism ranking of multi-contrast MRI in brain pathology

Po Jui Lu, Youngjin Yoo, Reza Rahmanzadeh, Riccardo Galbusera, Matthias Weigel, Pascal Ceccaldi, Thanh D. Nguyen, Pascal Spincemaille, Yi Wang, Alessandro Daducci, Francesco La Rosa, Meritxell Bach Cuadra, Robin Sandkühler, Kambiz Nael, Amish Doshi, Zahi A. Fayad, Jens Kuhle, Ludwig Kappos, Benjamin Odry, Philippe CattinEli Gibson, Cristina Granziera

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3 Scopus citations


Introduction: During the last decade, a multitude of novel quantitative and semiquantitative MRI techniques have provided new information about the pathophysiology of neurological diseases. Yet, selection of the most relevant contrasts for a given pathology remains challenging. In this work, we developed and validated a method, Gated-Attention MEchanism Ranking of multi-contrast MRI in brain pathology (GAMER MRI), to rank the relative importance of MR measures in the classification of well understood ischemic stroke lesions. Subsequently, we applied this method to the classification of multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions, where the relative importance of MR measures is less understood. Methods: GAMER MRI was developed based on the gated attention mechanism, which computes attention weights (AWs) as proxies of importance of hidden features in the classification. In the first two experiments, we used Trace-weighted (Trace), apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC), Fluid-Attenuated Inversion Recovery (FLAIR), and T1-weighted (T1w) images acquired in 904 acute/subacute ischemic stroke patients and in 6,230 healthy controls and patients with other brain pathologies to assess if GAMER MRI could produce clinically meaningful importance orders in two different classification scenarios. In the first experiment, GAMER MRI with a pretrained convolutional neural network (CNN) was used in conjunction with Trace, ADC, and FLAIR to distinguish patients with ischemic stroke from those with other pathologies and healthy controls. In the second experiment, GAMER MRI with a patch-based CNN used Trace, ADC and T1w to differentiate acute ischemic stroke lesions from healthy tissue. The last experiment explored the performance of patch-based CNN with GAMER MRI in ranking the importance of quantitative MRI measures to distinguish two groups of lesions with different pathological characteristics and unknown quantitative MR features. Specifically, GAMER MRI was applied to assess the relative importance of the myelin water fraction (MWF), quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM), T1 relaxometry map (qT1), and neurite density index (NDI) in distinguishing 750 juxtacortical lesions from 242 periventricular lesions in 47 MS patients. Pair-wise permutation t-tests were used to evaluate the differences between the AWs obtained for each quantitative measure. Results: In the first experiment, we achieved a mean test AUC of 0.881 and the obtained AWs of FLAIR and the sum of AWs of Trace and ADC were 0.11 and 0.89, respectively, as expected based on previous knowledge. In the second experiment, we achieved a mean test F1 score of 0.895 and a mean AW of Trace = 0.49, of ADC = 0.28, and of T1w = 0.23, thereby confirming the findings of the first experiment. In the third experiment, MS lesion classification achieved test balanced accuracy = 0.777, sensitivity = 0.739, and specificity = 0.814. The mean AWs of T1map, MWF, NDI, and QSM were 0.29, 0.26, 0.24, and 0.22 (p < 0.001), respectively. Conclusions: This work demonstrates that the proposed GAMER MRI might be a useful method to assess the relative importance of MRI measures in neurological diseases with focal pathology. Moreover, the obtained AWs may in fact help to choose the best combination of MR contrasts for a specific classification problem.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102522
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Attention mechanism
  • Deep learning
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Quantitative MRI
  • Relative importance order
  • Stroke


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