An integrated feature ranking and selection framework for ADHD characterization

Cao Xiao, Jesse Bledsoe, Shouyi Wang, Wanpracha Art Chaovalitwongse, Sonya Mehta, Margaret Semrud-Clikeman, Thomas Grabowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Today, diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) still primarily relies on a series of subjective evaluations that highly rely on a doctor’s experiences and intuitions from diagnostic interviews and observed behavior measures. An accurate and objective diagnosis of ADHD is still a challenge and leaves much to be desired. Many children and adults are inappropriately labeled with ADHD conditions, whereas many are left undiagnosed and untreated. Recent advances in neuroimaging studies have enabled us to search for both structural (e.g., cortical thickness, brain volume) and functional (functional connectivity) abnormalities that can potentially be used as new biomarkers of ADHD. However, structural and functional characteristics of neuroimaging data, especially magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), usually generate a large number of features. With a limited sample size, traditional machine learning techniques can be problematic to discover the true characteristic features of ADHD due to the significant issues of overfitting, computational burden, and interpretability of the model. There is an urgent need of efficient approaches to identify meaningful discriminative variables from a higher dimensional feature space when sample size is small compared with the number of features. To tackle this problem, this paper proposes a novel integrated feature ranking and selection framework that utilizes normalized brain cortical thickness features extracted from MRI data to discriminate ADHD subjects against healthy controls. The proposed framework combines information theoretic criteria and the least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (Lasso) method into a two-step feature selection process which is capable of selecting a sparse model while preserving the most informative features. The experimental results showed that the proposed framework generated the highest/comparable ADHD prediction accuracy compared with the state-of-the-art feature selection approaches with minimum number of features in the final model. The selected regions of interest in our model were consistent with recent brain–behavior studies of ADHD development, and thus confirmed the validity of the selected features by the proposed approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-155
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Informatics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


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