A computational framework for the detection of subcortical brain dysmaturation in neonatal MRI using 3D Convolutional Neural Networks

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Deep neural networks are increasingly being used in both supervised learning for classification tasks and unsupervised learning to derive complex patterns from the input data. However, the successful implementation of deep neural networks using neuroimaging datasets requires adequate sample size for training and well-defined signal intensity based structural differentiation. There is a lack of effective automated diagnostic tools for the reliable detection of brain dysmaturation in the neonatal period, related to small sample size and complex undifferentiated brain structures, despite both translational research and clinical importance. Volumetric information alone is insufficient for diagnosis. In this study, we developed a computational framework for the automated classification of brain dysmaturation from neonatal MRI, by combining a specific deep neural network implementation with neonatal structural brain segmentation as a method for both clinical pattern recognition and data-driven inference into the underlying structural morphology. We implemented three-dimensional convolution neural networks (3D-CNNs) to specifically classify dysplastic cerebelli, a subset of surface-based subcortical brain dysmaturation, in term infants born with congenital heart disease. We obtained a 0.985 ± 0. 0241-classification accuracy of subtle cerebellar dysplasia in CHD using 10-fold cross-validation. Furthermore, the hidden layer activations and class activation maps depicted regional vulnerability of the superior surface of the cerebellum, (composed of mostly the posterior lobe and the midline vermis), in regards to differentiating the dysplastic process from normal tissue. The posterior lobe and the midline vermis provide regional differentiation that is relevant to not only to the clinical diagnosis of cerebellar dysplasia, but also genetic mechanisms and neurodevelopmental outcome correlates. These findings not only contribute to the detection and classification of a subset of neonatal brain dysmaturation, but also provide insight to the pathogenesis of cerebellar dysplasia in CHD. In addition, this is one of the first examples of the application of deep learning to a neuroimaging dataset, in which the hidden layer activation revealed diagnostically and biologically relevant features about the clinical pathogenesis. The code developed for this project is open source, published under the BSD License, and designed to be generalizable to applications both within and beyond neonatal brain imaging.HighlightsA framework for classification of brain dysmaturation from neonatal MRI is introduced.Combine deep learning and structural brain segmentation.Provides both clinical pattern recognition and data-driven inference.Revealed diagnostic and biologic insight about clinical pathogenesis.The code developed is open source, published under the BSD License.

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