Identifying relevant biomarkers of brain injury from structural MRI: Validation using automated approaches in children with unilateral cerebral palsy
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Previous studies have proposed that the early elucidation of brain injury from structural Magnetic Resonance Images (sMRI) is critical for the clinical assessment of children with cerebral palsy (CP). Although distinct aetiologies, including cortical maldevelopments, white and grey matter lesions and ventricular enlargement, have been categorised, these injuries are commonly only assessed in a qualitative fashion. As a result, sMRI remains relatively underexploited for clinical assessments, despite its widespread use. In this study, several automated and validated techniques to automatically quantify these three classes of injury were generated in a large cohort of children (n = 139) aged 5–17, including 95 children diagnosed with unilateral CP. Using a feature selection approach on a training data set (n = 97) to find severity of injury biomarkers predictive of clinical function (motor, cognitive, communicative and visual function), cortical shape and regional lesion burden were most often chosen associated with clinical function. Validating the best models on the unseen test data (n = 42), correlation values ranged between 0.545 and 0.795 (p < 0.008), indicating significant associations with clinical function. The measured prevalence of injury, including ventricular enlargement (70%), white and grey matter lesions (55%) and cortical malformations (30%), were similar to the prevalence observed in other cohorts of children with unilateral CP. These findings support the early characterisation of injury from sMRI into previously defined aetiologies as part of standard clinical assessment. Furthermore, the strong and significant association between quantifications of injury observed on structural MRI and multiple clinical scores accord with empirically established structure-function relationships.
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