Deep learning prediction of mild cognitive impairment conversion to Alzheimer's disease at 3 years after diagnosis using longitudinal and wholebrain 3D MRI

Ethan Ocasio, Tim Q. Duong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background. While there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease (AD), early diagnosis and accurate prognosis of AD may enable or encourage lifestyle changes, neurocognitive enrichment, and interventions to slow the rate of cognitive decline. The goal of our study was to develop and evaluate a novel deep learning algorithm to predict mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to AD conversion at three years after diagnosis using longitudinal and whole-brain 3D MRI. Methods. This retrospective study consisted of 320 normal cognition (NC), 554 MCI, and 237 AD patients. Longitudinal data include T1-weighted 3D MRI obtained at initial presentation with diagnosis of MCI and at 12-month follow up. Whole-brain 3D MRI volumes were used without a priori segmentation of regional structural volumes or cortical thicknesses. MRIs of the AD and NC cohort were used to train a deep learning classification model to obtain weights to be applied via transfer learning for prediction of MCI patient conversion to AD at three years post-diagnosis. Two (zero-shot and fine tuning) transfer learning methods were evaluated. Three different convolutional neural network (CNN) architectures (sequential, residual bottleneck, and wide residual) were compared. Data were split into 75% and 25% for training and testing, respectively, with 4-fold cross validation. Prediction accuracy was evaluated using balanced accuracy. Heatmaps were generated. Results. The sequential convolutional approach yielded slightly better performance than the residual-based architecture, the zero-shot transfer learning approach yielded better performance than fine tuning, and CNN using longitudinal data performed better than CNN using a single timepoint MRI in predicting MCI conversion to AD. The best CNN model for predicting MCI conversion to AD at three years after diagnosis yielded a balanced accuracy of 0.793. Heatmaps of the prediction model showed regions most relevant to the network including the lateral ventricles, periventricular white matter and cortical gray matter. Conclusions. This is the first convolutional neural network model using longitudinal and whole-brain 3D MRIs without extracting regional brain volumes or cortical thicknesses to predict future MCI to AD conversion at 3 years after diagnosis. This approach could lead to early prediction of patients who are likely to progress to AD and thus may lead to better management of the disease. Subjects Bioinformatics, Artificial Intelligence, Data Mining and Machine Learning

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalPeerJ Computer Science
StatePublished - 2021


  • Artificial intelligence
  • Convolutional neural networks
  • Dementia
  • Machine learning
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Neuroimaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)


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