Frontiers in Neuroscience (Jan 2022)

Toward a Multimodal Computer-Aided Diagnostic Tool for Alzheimer’s Disease Conversion

  • Danilo Pena,
  • Jessika Suescun,
  • Mya Schiess,
  • Timothy M. Ellmore,
  • Luca Giancardo,
  • the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 15


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Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. It is one of the leading sources of morbidity and mortality in the aging population AD cardinal symptoms include memory and executive function impairment that profoundly alters a patient’s ability to perform activities of daily living. People with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) exhibit many of the early clinical symptoms of patients with AD and have a high chance of converting to AD in their lifetime. Diagnostic criteria rely on clinical assessment and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Many groups are working to help automate this process to improve the clinical workflow. Current computational approaches are focused on predicting whether or not a subject with MCI will convert to AD in the future. To our knowledge, limited attention has been given to the development of automated computer-assisted diagnosis (CAD) systems able to provide an AD conversion diagnosis in MCI patient cohorts followed longitudinally. This is important as these CAD systems could be used by primary care providers to monitor patients with MCI. The method outlined in this paper addresses this gap and presents a computationally efficient pre-processing and prediction pipeline, and is designed for recognizing patterns associated with AD conversion. We propose a new approach that leverages longitudinal data that can be easily acquired in a clinical setting (e.g., T1-weighted magnetic resonance images, cognitive tests, and demographic information) to identify the AD conversion point in MCI subjects with AUC = 84.7. In contrast, cognitive tests and demographics alone achieved AUC = 80.6, a statistically significant difference (n = 669, p < 0.05). We designed a convolutional neural network that is computationally efficient and requires only linear registration between imaging time points. The model architecture combines Attention and Inception architectures while utilizing both cross-sectional and longitudinal imaging and clinical information. Additionally, the top brain regions and clinical features that drove the model’s decision were investigated. These included the thalamus, caudate, planum temporale, and the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test. We believe our method could be easily translated into the healthcare setting as an objective AD diagnostic tool for patients with MCI.