Quantifying confounding bias in neuroimaging datasets with causal inference

Christian Wachinger, Benjamin Gutierrez Becker, Anna Rieckmann, Sebastian Pölsterl

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

Neuroimaging datasets keep growing in size to address increasingly complex medical questions. However, even the largest datasets today alone are too small for training complex machine learning models. A potential solution is to increase sample size by pooling scans from several datasets. In this work, we combine 12,207 MRI scans from 15 studies and show that simple pooling is often ill-advised due to introducing various types of biases in the training data. First, we systematically define these biases. Second, we detect bias by experimentally showing that scans can be correctly assigned to their respective dataset with 73.3% accuracy. Finally, we propose to tell causal from confounding factors by quantifying the extent of confounding and causality in a single dataset using causal inference. We achieve this by finding the simplest graphical model in terms of Kolmogorov complexity. As Kolmogorov complexity is not directly computable, we employ the minimum description length to approximate it. We empirically show that our approach is able to estimate plausible causal relationships from real neuroimaging data.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMedical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Intervention – MICCAI 2019 - 22nd International Conference, Proceedings
EditorsDinggang Shen, Pew-Thian Yap, Tianming Liu, Terry M. Peters, Ali Khan, Lawrence H. Staib, Caroline Essert, Sean Zhou
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH
Pages484-492
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)9783030322502
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes
Event22nd International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Intervention, MICCAI 2019 - Shenzhen, China
Duration: 13 Oct 201917 Oct 2019

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume11767 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349

Conference

Conference22nd International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Intervention, MICCAI 2019
Country/TerritoryChina
CityShenzhen
Period13/10/1917/10/19

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