Nevin Manimala Statistics

Effects of de-facing software mri_reface on utility of imaging biomarkers used in Alzheimer’s disease research

Neuroimage Clin. 2023 Sep 9;40:103507. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2023.103507. Online ahead of print.


Brain imaging research studies increasingly use “de-facing” software to remove or replace facial imagery before public data sharing. Several works have studied the effects of de-facing software on brain imaging biomarkers by directly comparing automated measurements from unmodified vs de-faced images, but most research brain images are used in analyses of correlations with cognitive measurements or clinical statuses, and the effects of de-facing on these types of imaging-to-cognition correlations has not been measured. In this work, we focused on brain imaging measures of amyloid (A), tau (T), neurodegeneration (N), and vascular (V) measures used in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) research. We created a retrospective sample of participants from three age- and sex-matched clinical groups (cognitively unimpaired, mild cognitive impairment, and AD dementia, and we performed region- and voxel-wise analyses of: hippocampal volume (N), white matter hyperintensity volume (V), amyloid PET (A), and tau PET (T) measures, each from multiple software pipelines, on their ability to separate cognitively defined groups and their degrees of correlation with age and Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR)-Sum of Boxes (CDR-SB). We performed each of these analyses twice: once with unmodified images and once with images de-faced with leading de-facing software mri_reface, and we directly compared the findings and their statistical strengths between the original vs. the de-faced images. Analyses with original and with de-faced images had very high agreement. There were no significant differences between any voxel-wise comparisons. Among region-wise comparisons, only three out of 55 correlations were significantly different between original and de-faced images, and these were not significant after correction for multiple comparisons. Overall, the statistical power of the imaging data for AD biomarkers was almost identical between unmodified and de-faced images, and their analyses results were extremely consistent.

PMID:37703605 | DOI:10.1016/j.nicl.2023.103507

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