A deep learning framework identifies dimensional representations of Alzheimer’s Disease from brain structure

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19 Scopus citations


Heterogeneity of brain diseases is a challenge for precision diagnosis/prognosis. We describe and validate Smile-GAN (SeMI-supervised cLustEring-Generative Adversarial Network), a semi-supervised deep-clustering method, which examines neuroanatomical heterogeneity contrasted against normal brain structure, to identify disease subtypes through neuroimaging signatures. When applied to regional volumes derived from T1-weighted MRI (two studies; 2,832 participants; 8,146 scans) including cognitively normal individuals and those with cognitive impairment and dementia, Smile-GAN identified four patterns or axes of neurodegeneration. Applying this framework to longitudinal data revealed two distinct progression pathways. Measures of expression of these patterns predicted the pathway and rate of future neurodegeneration. Pattern expression offered complementary performance to amyloid/tau in predicting clinical progression. These deep-learning derived biomarkers offer potential for precision diagnostics and targeted clinical trial recruitment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7065
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The iSTAGING consortium is a multi-institutional effort funded by NIA by RF1 AG054409. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging neuroimaging study is funded by the Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health and by HHSN271201600059C. This study was also supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health (U19-AG033655). Data used in preparation of this article were in part obtained from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) database (adni.loni.usc.edu). As such, the investigators within the ADNI contributed to the design and implementation of ADNI and/or provided data but did not participate in analysis or writing of this report. A complete listing of ADNI investigators can be found at: http://adni.loni.usc.edu/wpcontent/uploads/how_to_apply/ ADNI_Acknowledgement_List.pdf. ADNI is funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and through generous contributions from the following: AbbVie, Alzheimer’s Association; Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation; Araclon Biotech; BioClinica, Inc.; Biogen; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; CereSpir, Inc.; Cogstate; Eisai Inc.; Elan Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Eli Lilly and Company; EuroImmun; F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd and its affiliated company Genen-tech, Inc.; Fujirebio; GE Healthcare; IXICO Ltd.; Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy Research & Development, LLC.; Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development LLC.; Lumosity; Lundbeck; Merck & Co., Inc.; Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC.; NeuroRx Research; Neurotrack Technologies; Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation; Pfizer Inc.; Piramal Imaging; Servier; Takeda Pharmaceutical Company; and Transition Therapeutics. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is providing funds to support ADNI clinical sites in Canada. Private sector contributions are facilitated by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (www.fnih.org). The grantee organization is the Northern California Institute for Research and Education, and the study is coordinated by the Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute at the University of Southern California. ADNI data are disseminated by the Laboratory for Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Physics and Astronomy (all)


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