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Bipolar disorder (BD) is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. Patients are further disadvantaged by delays in accurate diagnosis ranging between 5 and 10 years. We applied Gaussian process classifiers (GPCs) to structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI) data to evaluate the feasibility of using pattern recognition techniques for the diagnostic classification of patients with BD.
GPCs were applied to gray (GM) and white matter (WM) sMRI data derived from two independent samples of patients with BD (cohort 1: n = 26; cohort 2: n = 14). Within each cohort patients were matched on age, sex and IQ to an equal number of healthy controls.
The diagnostic accuracy of the GPC for GM was 73% in cohort 1 and 72% in cohort 2; the sensitivity and specificity of the GM classification were respectively 69% and 77% in cohort 1 and 64% and 99% in cohort 2. The diagnostic accuracy of the GPC for WM was 69% in cohort 1 and 78% in cohort 2; the sensitivity and specificity of the WM classification were both 69% in cohort 1 and 71% and 86% respectively in cohort 2. In both samples, GM and WM clusters discriminating between patients and controls were localized within cortical and subcortical structures implicated in BD.
Our results demonstrate the predictive value of neuroanatomical data in discriminating patients with BD from healthy individuals. The overlap between discriminative networks and regions implicated in the pathophysiology of BD supports the biological plausibility of the classifiers.
To date, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has made little impact on the diagnosis and monitoring of psychoses in individual patients. In this study, we used a support vector machine (SVM) whole-brain classification approach to predict future illness course at the individual level from MRI data obtained at the first psychotic episode.
One hundred patients at their first psychotic episode and 91 healthy controls had an MRI scan. Patients were re-evaluated 6.2 years (s.d.=2.3) later, and were classified as having a continuous, episodic or intermediate illness course. Twenty-eight subjects with a continuous course were compared with 28 patients with an episodic course and with 28 healthy controls. We trained each SVM classifier independently for the following contrasts: continuous versus episodic, continuous versus healthy controls, and episodic versus healthy controls.
At baseline, patients with a continuous course were already distinguishable, with significance above chance level, from both patients with an episodic course (p=0.004, sensitivity=71, specificity=68) and healthy individuals (p=0.01, sensitivity=71, specificity=61). Patients with an episodic course could not be distinguished from healthy individuals. When patients with an intermediate outcome were classified according to the discriminating pattern episodic versus continuous, 74% of those who did not develop other episodes were classified as episodic, and 65% of those who did develop further episodes were classified as continuous (p=0.035).
We provide preliminary evidence of MRI application in the individualized prediction of future illness course, using a simple and automated SVM pipeline. When replicated and validated in larger groups, this could enable targeted clinical decisions based on imaging data.
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