Predicting body mass index from structural MRI brain images using a deep convolutional neural network
In recent years, deep learning (DL) has become more widespread in the fields of cognitive and clinical neuroimaging. Using deep neural network models to process neuroimaging data is an efficient method to classify brain disorders and identify individuals who are at increased risk of age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disease. Here we investigated, for the first time, whether structural brain imaging and DL can be used for predicting a physical trait that is of significant clinical relevance—the body mass index (BMI) of the individual. We show that individual BMI can be accurately predicted using a deep convolutional neural network (CNN) and a single structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan along with information about age and sex. Localization maps computed for the CNN highlighted several brain structures that strongly contributed to BMI prediction, including the caudate nucleus and the amygdala. Comparison to the results obtained via a standard automatic brain segmentation method revealed that the CNN-based visualization approach yielded complementary evidence regarding the relationship between brain structure and BMI. Taken together, our results imply that predicting BMI from structural brain scans using DL represents a promising approach to investigate the relationship between brain morphological variability and individual differences in body weight and provide a new scope for future investigations regarding the potential clinical utility of brain-predicted BMI.