The effect of repetitive sub-concussive head impact exposure in contact sports like American football on brain health is poorly understood, especially in the understudied populations of youth and high school players. These players, aged 9-18 years old may be particularly susceptible to impact exposure as their brains are undergoing rapid maturation. This study helps fill the void by quantifying the association between head impact exposure and functional connectivity, an important aspect of brain health measurable via resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI). The contributions of this paper are three fold. First, the data from two separate studies (youth and high school) are combined to form a high-powered analysis with 60 players. These players experience head acceleration within overlapping impact exposure making their combination particularly appropriate. Second, multiple features are extracted from rs-fMRI and tested for their association with impact exposure. One type of feature is the power spectral density decomposition of intrinsic, spatially distributed networks extracted via independent components analysis (ICA). Another feature type is the functional connectivity between brain regions known often associated with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). Third, multiple supervised machine learning algorithms are evaluated for their stability and predictive accuracy in a low bias, nested cross-validation modeling framework. Each classifier predicts whether a player sustained low or high levels of head impact exposure. The nested cross validation reveals similarly high classification performance across the feature types, and the Support Vector, Extremely randomized trees, and Gradboost classifiers achieve F1-score up to 75%.
Gowtham Murugesan, Behrouz Saghafi, Elizabeth Davenport, Ben Wagner, Jillian Urban, Mireille Kelley, Derek Jones, Alex Powers, Christopher Whitlow, Joel Stitzel, Joseph Maldjian, and Albert Montillo, "Single season changes in resting state network power and the connectivity between regions distinguish head impact exposure level in high school and youth football players," Proc. SPIE 10575, Medical Imaging 2018: Computer-Aided Diagnosis, 105750F (Presented at SPIE Medical Imaging: February 12, 2018; Published: 27 February 2018); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2293199.
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