Disentangling Alzheimer's disease neurodegeneration from typical brain aging using machine learning

09/08/2021 ∙ by Gyujoon Hwang, et al. ∙ 0

Neuroimaging biomarkers that distinguish between typical brain aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD) are valuable for determining how much each contributes to cognitive decline. Machine learning models can derive multi-variate brain change patterns related to the two processes, including the SPARE-AD (Spatial Patterns of Atrophy for Recognition of Alzheimer's Disease) and SPARE-BA (of Brain Aging) investigated herein. However, substantial overlap between brain regions affected in the two processes confounds measuring them independently. We present a methodology toward disentangling the two. T1-weighted MRI images of 4,054 participants (48-95 years) with AD, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or cognitively normal (CN) diagnoses from the iSTAGING (Imaging-based coordinate SysTem for AGIng and NeurodeGenerative diseases) consortium were analyzed. First, a subset of AD patients and CN adults were selected based purely on clinical diagnoses to train SPARE-BA1 (regression of age using CN individuals) and SPARE-AD1 (classification of CN versus AD). Second, analogous groups were selected based on clinical and molecular markers to train SPARE-BA2 and SPARE-AD2: amyloid-positive (A+) AD continuum group (consisting of A+AD, A+MCI, and A+ and tau-positive CN individuals) and amyloid-negative (A-) CN group. Finally, the combined group of the AD continuum and A-/CN individuals was used to train SPARE-BA3, with the intention to estimate brain age regardless of AD-related brain changes. Disentangled SPARE models derived brain patterns that were more specific to the two types of the brain changes. Correlation between the SPARE-BA and SPARE-AD was significantly reduced. Correlation of disentangled SPARE-AD was non-inferior to the molecular measurements and to the number of APOE4 alleles, but was less to AD-related psychometric test scores, suggesting contribution of advanced brain aging to these scores.

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