We propose a statistical learning model for classifying cognitive processes based on distributed patterns of neural activation in the brain, acquired via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In the proposed learning method, local meshes are formed around each voxel. The distance between voxels in the mesh is determined by using a functional neighbourhood concept. In order to define the functional neighbourhood, the similarities between the time series recorded for voxels are measured and functional connectivity matrices are constructed. Then, the local mesh for each voxel is formed by including the functionally closest neighbouring voxels in the mesh. The relationship between the voxels within a mesh is estimated by using a linear regression model. These relationship vectors, called Functional Connectivity aware Local Relational Features (FC-LRF) are then used to train a statistical learning machine. The proposed method was tested on a recognition memory experiment, including data pertaining to encoding and retrieval of words belonging to ten different semantic categories. Two popular classifiers, namely k-nearest neighbour (k-nn) and Support Vector Machine (SVM), are trained in order to predict the semantic category of the item being retrieved, based on activation patterns during encoding. The classification performance of the Functional Mesh Learning model, which range in 62%-71% is superior to the classical multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) methods, which range in 40%-48%, for ten semantic categories.
This paper introduces a novel classification method for functional magnetic resonance imaging datasets with tens of classes. The method is designed to make predictions using information from as many brain locations as possible, instead of resorting to feature selection, and does this by decomposing the pattern of brain activation into differently informative sub-regions. We provide results over a complex semantic processing dataset that show that the method is competitive with state-of-the-art feature selection and also suggest how the method may be used to perform group or exploratory analyses of complex class structure.
Information mapping is a popular application of Multivoxel Pattern Analysis (MVPA) to fMRI. Information maps are constructed using the so called searchlight method, where the spherical multivoxel neighborhood of every voxel (i.e., a searchlight) in the brain is evaluated for the presence of task-relevant response patterns. Despite their widespread use, information maps present several challenges for interpretation. One such challenge has to do with inferring the size and shape of a multivoxel pattern from its signature on the information map. To address this issue, we formally examined the geometric basis of this mapping relationship. Based on geometric considerations, we show how and why small patterns (i.e., having smaller spatial extents) can produce a larger signature on the information map as compared to large patterns, independent of the size of the searchlight radius. Furthermore, we show that the number of informative searchlights over the brain increase as a function of searchlight radius, even in the complete absence of any multivariate response patterns. These properties are unrelated to the statistical capabilities of the pattern-analysis algorithms used but are obligatory geometric properties arising from using the searchlight procedure.
Schizophrenia is a complex psychiatric disorder that has eluded a characterization in terms of local abnormalities of brain activity, and is hypothesized to affect the collective, ``emergent working of the brain. We propose a novel data-driven approach to capture emergent features using functional brain networks [Eguiluzet al] extracted from fMRI data, and demonstrate its advantage over traditional region-of-interest (ROI) and local, task-specific linear activation analyzes. Our results suggest that schizophrenia is indeed associated with disruption of global, emergent brain properties related to its functioning as a network, which cannot be explained by alteration of local activation patterns. Moreover, further exploitation of interactions by sparse Markov Random Field classifiers shows clear gain over linear methods, such as Gaussian Naive Bayes and SVM, allowing to reach 86% accuracy (over 50% baseline - random guess), which is quite remarkable given that it is based on a single fMRI experiment using a simple auditory task.
Statistical machine learning methods are increasingly used for neuroimaging data analysis. Their main virtue is their ability to model high-dimensional datasets, e.g. multivariate analysis of activation images or resting-state time series. Supervised learning is typically used in decoding or encoding settings to relate brain images to behavioral or clinical observations, while unsupervised learning can uncover hidden structures in sets of images (e.g. resting state functional MRI) or find sub-populations in large cohorts. By considering different functional neuroimaging applications, we illustrate how scikit-learn, a Python machine learning library, can be used to perform some key analysis steps. Scikit-learn contains a very large set of statistical learning algorithms, both supervised and unsupervised, and its application to neuroimaging data provides a versatile tool to study the brain.