Brain development and aging are dynamic processes that unfold over years on multiple levels in both healthy and disordered individuals. Recent studies have revealed a disparity between the chronological brain age and the ‘data-driven’ brain age using functional MRI (fMRI) and diffusion MRI (dMRI). Particularly, predicting the ‘brain age’ from connectomic data might help identify relevant connectional biomarkers of neurological disorders that emerge early or late in the lifespan. While prior brain-age prediction studies have relied exclusively on either structural or functional connectomic data, here we unprecedentedly propose to predict the morphological age of the brain by solely using morphological brain networks (derived from T1-weighted images) in both healthy and disordered populations. Besides, although T1-weighted MRI was widely used for brain age prediction, it was leveraged from an image-based analysis perspective not from a connectomic perspective. Our method includes the following steps: (i) building multi-view morphological brain networks (M-MBN), (ii) feature extraction and selection, (iii) training a machine-learning regression model to predict age from M-MBN data, and (iv) utilizing our model to identify connectional brain features related to age in both autistic and healthy populations. We demonstrate that our method significantly outperforms existing approaches and discovered brain connectional morphological features that fingerprint the age of brain cortical morphology in both autistic and healthy individuals. In particular, we discovered that the connectional cortical thickness best predicts the morphological age of the autistic brain.
- Cognitive ageing
- Machine learning