A Role for Prior Knowledge in Statistical Classification of the Transition from Mild Cognitive Impairment to Alzheimer's Disease

Zihuan Liu, Tapabrata Maiti, Andrew R. Bender, Ali Ezzati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: The transition from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to dementia is of great interest to clinical research on Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. This phenomenon also serves as a valuable data source for quantitative methodological researchers developing new approaches for classification. However, the growth of machine learning (ML) approaches for classification may falsely lead many clinical researchers to underestimate the value of logistic regression (LR), which often demonstrates classification accuracy equivalent or superior to other ML methods. Further, when faced with many potential features that could be used for classifying the transition, clinical researchers are often unaware of the relative value of different approaches for variable selection. Objective: The present study sought to compare different methods for statistical classification and for automated and theoretically guided feature selection techniques in the context of predicting conversion from MCI to dementia. Methods: We used data from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) to evaluate different influences of automated feature preselection on LR and support vector machine (SVM) classification methods, in classifying conversion from MCI to dementia. Results: The present findings demonstrate how similar performance can be achieved using user-guided, clinically informed pre-selection versus algorithmic feature selection techniques. Conclusion: These results show that although SVM and other ML techniques are capable of relatively accurate classification, similar or higher accuracy can often be achieved by LR, mitigating SVM's necessity or value for many clinical researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1859-1875
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • classification
  • machine learning
  • mild cognitive impairment
  • support vector machine
  • variable selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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