Machine learning to investigate superficial white matter integrity in early multiple sclerosis

Korhan Buyukturkoglu, Christopher Vergara, Valentina Fuentealba, Ceren Tozlu, Jacob B. Dahan, Britta E. Carroll, Amy Kuceyeski, Claire S. Riley, James F. Sumowski, Carlos Guevara Oliva, Ranganatha Sitaram, Pamela Guevara, Victoria M. Leavitt

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Background and Purpose: This study aims todetermine the sensitivity of superficial white matter (SWM) integrity as a metric to distinguish early multiple sclerosis (MS) patients from healthy controls (HC). Methods: Fractional anisotropy and mean diffusivity (MD) values from SWM bundles across the cortex and major deep white matter (DWM) tracts were extracted from 29 early MS patients and 31 age- and sex-matched HC. Thickness of 68 cortical regions and resting-state functional-connectivity (RSFC) among them were calculated. The distribution of structural and functional metrics between groups were compared using Wilcoxon rank-sum test. Utilizing a machine learning method (adaptive boosting), 6 models were built based on: 1-SWM, 2-DWM, 3-SWM and DWM, 4-cortical thickness, or 5-RSFC measures. In model 6, all features from previous models were incorporated. The models were trained with nested 5-folds cross-validation. Area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUCroc) values were calculated to evaluate classification performance of each model. Permutation tests were used to compare the AUCroc values. Results: Patients had higher MD in SWM bundles including insula, inferior frontal, orbitofrontal, superior and medial temporal, and pre- and post-central cortices (p <.05). No group differences were found for any other MRI metric. The model incorporating SWM and DWM features provided the best classification (AUCroc = 0.75). The SWM model provided higher AUCroc (0.74), compared to DWM (0.63), cortical thickness (0.67), RSFC (0.63), and all-features (0.68) models (p <.001 for all). Conclusion: Our results reveal a non-random pattern of SWM abnormalities at early stages of MS even before pronounced structural and functional alterations emerge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-47
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroimaging
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022


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