Self-pruning Graph Neural Network for Predicting Inflammatory Disease Activity in Multiple Sclerosis from Brain MR Images

by   Chinmay Prabhakar, et al.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a severe neurological disease characterized by inflammatory lesions in the central nervous system. Hence, predicting inflammatory disease activity is crucial for disease assessment and treatment. However, MS lesions can occur throughout the brain and vary in shape, size and total count among patients. The high variance in lesion load and locations makes it challenging for machine learning methods to learn a globally effective representation of whole-brain MRI scans to assess and predict disease. Technically it is non-trivial to incorporate essential biomarkers such as lesion load or spatial proximity. Our work represents the first attempt to utilize graph neural networks (GNN) to aggregate these biomarkers for a novel global representation. We propose a two-stage MS inflammatory disease activity prediction approach. First, a 3D segmentation network detects lesions, and a self-supervised algorithm extracts their image features. Second, the detected lesions are used to build a patient graph. The lesions act as nodes in the graph and are initialized with image features extracted in the first stage. Finally, the lesions are connected based on their spatial proximity and the inflammatory disease activity prediction is formulated as a graph classification task. Furthermore, we propose a self-pruning strategy to auto-select the most critical lesions for prediction. Our proposed method outperforms the existing baseline by a large margin (AUCs of 0.67 vs. 0.61 and 0.66 vs. 0.60 for one-year and two-year inflammatory disease activity, respectively). Finally, our proposed method enjoys inherent explainability by assigning an importance score to each lesion for the overall prediction. Code is available at


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