To develop a new method for measuring Alzheimer's disease (AD)-specific similarity of cortical atrophy patterns at the individual-level, we employed an individual-level machine learning algorithm. A total of 869 cognitively normal (CN) individuals and 473 patients with probable AD dementia who underwent high-resolution 3T brain MRI were included. We propose a machine learning-based method for measuring the similarity of an individual subject's cortical atrophy pattern with that of a representative AD patient cohort. In addition, we validated this similarity measure in two longitudinal cohorts consisting of 79 patients with amnestic-mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) and 27 patients with probable AD dementia. Surface-based morphometry classifier for discriminating AD from CN showed sensitivity and specificity values of 87.1% and 93.3%, respectively. In the longitudinal validation study, aMCI-converts had higher atrophy similarity at both baseline (p < 0.001) and first year visits (p < 0.001) relative to non-converters. Similarly, AD patients with faster decline had higher atrophy similarity than slower decliners at baseline (p = 0.042), first year (p = 0.028), and third year visits (p = 0.027). The AD-specific atrophy similarity measure is a novel approach for the prediction of dementia risk and for the evaluation of AD trajectories on an individual subject level.
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