Machine learning for brain age prediction: Introduction to methods and clinical applications

Authors: Lea Baecker, Rafael Garcia-Dias, Sandra Vieira, Cristina Scarpazza, Andrea Mechelli

Journal: EBioMedicine - The Lancet

DOI: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2021.103600


The rise of machine learning has unlocked new ways of analysing structural neuroimaging data, including brain age prediction. In this state-of-the-art review, we provide an introduction to the methods and potential clinical applications of brain age prediction. Studies on brain age typically involve the creation of a regression machine learning model of age-related neuroanatomical changes in healthy people. This model is then applied to new subjects to predict their brain age. The difference between predicted brain age and chronological age in a given individual is known as ‘brain-age gap’. This value is thought to reflect neuroanatomical abnormalities and may be a marker of overall brain health. It may aid early detection of brain-based disorders and support differential diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment choices. These applications could lead to more timely and more targeted interventions in age-related disorders.