Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a highly prevalent and heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorder, which is diagnosed using subjective symptom reports. Machine learning classifiers have been utilized to assist in the development of neuroimaging-based biomarkers for objective diagnosis of ADHD. However, existing basic model-based studies in ADHD report suboptimal classification performances and inconclusive results, mainly due to the limited flexibility for each type of basic classifier to appropriately handle multi-dimensional source features with varying properties. This study applied ensemble learning techniques (ELTs), a meta-algorithm that combine several basic machine learning models into one predictive model in order to decrease variance, bias, or improve predictions, in multimodal neuroimaging data collected from 72 young adults, including 36 probands (18 remitters and 18 persisters of childhood ADHD) and 36 group-matched controls. All currently available optimization strategies for ELTs (i.e., voting, bagging, boosting and stacking techniques) were tested in a pool of semifinal classification results generated by seven basic classifiers. The high-dimensional neuroimaging features for classification included regional cortical gray matter (GM) thickness and surface area, GM volume of subcortical structures, volume and fractional anisotropy of major white matter fiber tracts, pair-wise regional connectivity and global/nodal topological properties of the functional brain network for cue-evoked attention process. As a result, the bagging-based ELT with the base model of support vector machine achieved the best results, with significant improvement of the area under the receiver of operating characteristic curve (0.89 for ADHD vs. controls and 0.9 for ADHD persisters vs. remitters). Features of nodal efficiency in right inferior frontal gyrus, right middle frontal (MFG)-inferior parietal (IPL) functional connectivity, and right amygdala volume significantly contributed to accurate discrimination between ADHD probands and controls; higher nodal efficiency of right MFG greatly contributed to inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptom remission, while higher right MFG-IPL functional connectivity strongly linked to symptom persistence in adults with childhood ADHD. Considering their improved robustness than the commonly implemented basic classifiers, findings suggest that ELTs may have the potential to identify more reliable neurobiological markers for neurodevelopmental disorders.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Clinical Neurology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Ensemble learning
- Machine learning