The effect of machine learning regression algorithms and sample size on individualized behavioral prediction with functional connectivity features

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Individualized behavioral/cognitive prediction using machine learning (ML) regression approaches is becoming increasingly applied. The specific ML regression algorithm and sample size are two key factors that non-trivially influence prediction accuracies. However, the effects of the ML regression algorithm and sample size on individualized behavioral/cognitive prediction performance have not been comprehensively assessed. To address this issue, the present study included six commonly used ML regression algorithms: ordinary least squares (OLS) regression, least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO) regression, ridge regression, elastic-net regression, linear support vector regression (LSVR), and relevance vector regression (RVR), to perform specific behavioral/cognitive predictions based on different sample sizes. Specifically, the publicly available resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI) dataset from the Human Connectome Project (HCP) was used, and whole-brain resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) or rsFC strength (rsFCS) were extracted as prediction features. Twenty-five sample sizes (ranged from 20 to 700) were studied by sub-sampling from the entire HCP cohort. The analyses showed that rsFC-based LASSO regression performed remarkably worse than the other algorithms, and rsFCS-based OLS regression performed markedly worse than the other algorithms. Regardless of the algorithm and feature type, both the prediction accuracy and its stability exponentially increased with increasing sample size. The specific patterns of the observed algorithm and sample size effects were well replicated in the prediction using re-testing fMRI data, data processed by different imaging preprocessing schemes, and different behavioral/cognitive scores, thus indicating excellent robustness/generalization of the effects. The current findings provide critical insight into how the selected ML regression algorithm and sample size influence individualized predictions of behavior/cognition and offer important guidance for choosing the ML regression algorithm or sample size in relevant investigations.

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