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Neuroimage. 2010 Feb 1;49(3):2178-89. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.10.072. Epub 2009 Oct 29.

Quantitative prediction of subjective pain intensity from whole-brain fMRI data using Gaussian processes.

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Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Centre for Neuroimaging Sciences, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK.


Supervised machine learning (ML) algorithms are increasingly popular tools for fMRI decoding due to their predictive capability and their ability to capture information encoded by spatially correlated voxels. In addition, an important secondary outcome is a multivariate representation of the pattern underlying the prediction. Despite an impressive array of applications, most fMRI applications are framed as classification problems and predictions are limited to categorical class decisions. For many applications, quantitative predictions are desirable that more accurately represent variability within subject groups and that can be correlated with behavioural variables. We evaluate the predictive capability of Gaussian process (GP) models for two types of quantitative prediction (multivariate regression and probabilistic classification) using whole-brain fMRI volumes. As a proof of concept, we apply GP models to an fMRI experiment investigating subjective responses to thermal pain and show GP models predict subjective pain ratings without requiring anatomical hypotheses about functional localisation of relevant brain processes. Even in the case of pain perception, where strong hypotheses do exist, GP predictions were more accurate than any region previously demonstrated to encode pain intensity. We demonstrate two brain mapping methods suitable for GP models and we show that GP regression models outperform state of the art support vector- and relevance vector regression. For classification, GP models perform categorical prediction as accurately as a support vector machine classifier and furnish probabilistic class predictions.

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