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Deep Learning in Neuroimaging: Overcoming Challenges With Emerging Approaches


Deep learning (DL) is of great interest in psychiatry due its potential yet largely untapped ability to utilize multidimensional datasets (such as fMRI data) to predict clinical outcomes. Typical DL methods, however, have strong assumptions, such as large datasets and underlying model opaqueness, that are suitable for natural image prediction problems but not medical imaging. Here we describe three relatively novel DL approaches that may help accelerate its incorporation into mainstream psychiatry research and ultimately bring it into the clinic as a prognostic tool. We first introduce two methods that can reduce the amount of training data required to develop accurate models. These may prove invaluable for fMRI-based DL given the time and monetary expense required to acquire neuroimaging data. These methods are (1) transfer learning - the ability of deep learners to incorporate knowledge learned from one data source (e.g., fMRI data from one site) and apply it toward learning from a second data source (e.g., data from another site), and (2) data augmentation (via Mixup) - a self-supervised learning technique in which "virtual" instances are created. We then discuss explainable artificial intelligence (XAI), i.e., tools that reveal what features (and in what combinations) deep learners use to make decisions. XAI can be used to solve the "black box" criticism common in DL and reveal mechanisms that ultimately produce clinical outcomes. We expect these techniques to greatly enhance the applicability of DL in psychiatric research and help reveal novel mechanisms and potential pathways for therapeutic intervention in mental illness.

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