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Vivar, Gerome; Strobl, Ralf; Grill, Eva; Navab, Nassir; Zwergal, Andreas and Ahmadi, Seyed-Ahmad (2021): Using Base-ml to Learn Classification of Common Vestibular Disorders on DizzyReg Registry Data. In: Frontiers in Neurology, Vol. 12, No. 1270 [PDF, 1MB]


Background: Multivariable analyses (MVA) and machine learning (ML) applied on large datasets may have a high potential to provide clinical decision support in neuro-otology and reveal further avenues for vestibular research. To this end, we build base-ml, a comprehensive MVA/ML software tool, and applied it to three increasingly difficult clinical objectives in differentiation of common vestibular disorders, using data from a large prospective clinical patient registry (DizzyReg).

Methods: Base-ml features a full MVA/ML pipeline for classification of multimodal patient data, comprising tools for data loading and pre-processing; a stringent scheme for nested and stratified cross-validation including hyper-parameter optimization; a set of 11 classifiers, ranging from commonly used algorithms like logistic regression and random forests, to artificial neural network models, including a graph-based deep learning model which we recently proposed; a multi-faceted evaluation of classification metrics; tools from the domain of “Explainable AI” that illustrate the input distribution and a statistical analysis of the most important features identified by multiple classifiers.

Results: In the first clinical task, classification of the bilateral vestibular failure (N = 66) vs. functional dizziness (N = 346) was possible with a classification accuracy ranging up to 92.5% (Random Forest). In the second task, primary functional dizziness (N = 151) vs. secondary functional dizziness (following an organic vestibular syndrome) (N = 204), was classifiable with an accuracy ranging from 56.5 to 64.2% (k-nearest neighbors/logistic regression). The third task compared four episodic disorders, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (N = 134), vestibular paroxysmia (N = 49), Menière disease (N = 142) and vestibular migraine (N = 215). Classification accuracy ranged between 25.9 and 50.4% (Naïve Bayes/Support Vector Machine). Recent (graph-) deep learning models classified well in all three tasks, but not significantly better than more traditional ML methods. Classifiers reliably identified clinically relevant features as most important toward classification.

Conclusion: The three clinical tasks yielded classification results that correlate with the clinical intuition regarding the difficulty of diagnosis. It is favorable to apply an array of MVA/ML algorithms rather than a single one, to avoid under-estimation of classification accuracy. Base-ml provides a systematic benchmarking of classifiers, with a standardized output of MVA/ML performance on clinical tasks. To alleviate re-implementation efforts, we provide base-ml as an open-source tool for the community.

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