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Regional Deep Atrophy: a Self-Supervised Learning Method to Automatically Identify Regions Associated With Alzheimer's Disease Progression From Longitudinal MRI

by   Mengjin Dong, et al.

Longitudinal assessment of brain atrophy, particularly in the hippocampus, is a well-studied biomarker for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). In clinical trials, estimation of brain progressive rates can be applied to track therapeutic efficacy of disease modifying treatments. However, most state-of-the-art measurements calculate changes directly by segmentation and/or deformable registration of MRI images, and may misreport head motion or MRI artifacts as neurodegeneration, impacting their accuracy. In our previous study, we developed a deep learning method DeepAtrophy that uses a convolutional neural network to quantify differences between longitudinal MRI scan pairs that are associated with time. DeepAtrophy has high accuracy in inferring temporal information from longitudinal MRI scans, such as temporal order or relative inter-scan interval. DeepAtrophy also provides an overall atrophy score that was shown to perform well as a potential biomarker of disease progression and treatment efficacy. However, DeepAtrophy is not interpretable, and it is unclear what changes in the MRI contribute to progression measurements. In this paper, we propose Regional Deep Atrophy (RDA), which combines the temporal inference approach from DeepAtrophy with a deformable registration neural network and attention mechanism that highlights regions in the MRI image where longitudinal changes are contributing to temporal inference. RDA has similar prediction accuracy as DeepAtrophy, but its additional interpretability makes it more acceptable for use in clinical settings, and may lead to more sensitive biomarkers for disease monitoring in clinical trials of early AD.


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