A novel pipeline leveraging surface-based features of small subcortical structures to classify individuals with autism spectrum disorder

Yu Fu, Jie Zhang, Yuan Li, Jie Shi, Ying Zou, Hanning Guo, Yongchao Li, Zhijun Yao, Yalin Wang, Bin Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is accompanied with widespread impairment in social-emotional functioning. Classification of ASD using sensitive morphological features derived from structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain may help us to better understand ASD-related mechanisms and improve related automatic diagnosis. Previous studies using T1 MRI scans in large heterogeneous ABIDE dataset with typical development (TD) controls reported poor classification accuracies (around 60%). This may because they only considered surface-based morphometry (SBM) as scalar estimates (such as cortical thickness and surface area) and ignored the neighboring intrinsic geometry information among features. In recent years, the shape-related SBM achieves great success in discovering the disease burden and progression of other brain diseases. However, when focusing on local geometry information, its high dimensionality requires careful treatment in its application to machine learning. To address the above challenges, we propose a novel pipeline for ASD classification, which mainly includes the generation of surface-based features, patch-based surface sparse coding and dictionary learning, Max-pooling and ensemble classifiers based on adaptive optimizers. The proposed pipeline may leverage the sensitivity of brain surface morphometry statistics and the efficiency of sparse coding and Max-pooling. By introducing only the surface features of bilateral hippocampus that derived from 364 male subjects with ASD and 381 age-matched TD males, this pipeline outperformed five recent MRI-based ASD classification studies with >80% accuracy in discriminating individuals with ASD from TD controls. Our results suggest shape-related SBM features may further boost the classification performance of MRI between ASD and TD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109989
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
StatePublished - Jan 10 2021


  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Classification
  • High-dimensional features
  • Surface-based morphometry (SBM)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Biological Psychiatry


Dive into the research topics of 'A novel pipeline leveraging surface-based features of small subcortical structures to classify individuals with autism spectrum disorder'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this