GeoSPM: Geostatistical parametric mapping for medicine

by   Holger Engleitner, et al.

The characteristics and determinants of health and disease are often organised in space, reflecting our spatially extended nature. Understanding the influence of such factors requires models capable of capturing spatial relations. Though a mature discipline, spatial analysis is comparatively rare in medicine, arguably a consequence of the complexity of the domain and the inclemency of the data regimes that govern it. Drawing on statistical parametric mapping, a framework for topological inference well-established in the realm of neuroimaging, we propose and validate a novel approach to the spatial analysis of diverse clinical data - GeoSPM - based on differential geometry and random field theory. We evaluate GeoSPM across an extensive array of synthetic simulations encompassing diverse spatial relationships, sampling, and corruption by noise, and demonstrate its application on large-scale data from UK Biobank. GeoSPM is transparently interpretable, can be implemented with ease by non-specialists, enables flexible modelling of complex spatial relations, exhibits robustness to noise and under-sampling, offers well-founded criteria of statistical significance, and is through computational efficiency readily scalable to large datasets. We provide a complete, open-source software implementation of GeoSPM, and suggest that its adoption could catalyse the wider use of spatial analysis across the many aspects of medicine that urgently demand it.


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