Background and aims: This paper aimed to investigate the usefulness of applying machine learning on resting-state fMRI connectivity data to recognize the pattern of functional changes in essential tremor (ET), a disease characterized by slight brain abnormalities, often difficult to detect using univariate analysis. Methods: We trained a support vector machine with a radial kernel on the mean signals extracted by 14 brain networks obtained from resting-state fMRI scans of 18 ET and 19 healthy control (CTRL) subjects. Classification performance between pathological and control subjects was evaluated using a tenfold cross-validation. Recursive feature elimination was performed to rank the importance of the extracted features. Moreover, univariate analysis using Mann-Whitney U test was also performed. Results: The machine learning algorithm achieved an AUC of 0.75, with four networks (language, primary visual, cerebellum, and attention), which have an essential role in ET pathophysiology, being selected as the most important features for classification. By contrast, the univariate analysis was not able to find significant results among these two conditions. Conclusion: The machine learning approach identifies the changes in functional connectivity of ET patients, representing a promising instrument to discriminate specific pathological conditions and find novel functional biomarkers in resting-state fMRI studies.
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