Addressing Confounding in Predictive Models with an Application to Neuroimaging

Kristin A. Linn, Bilwaj Gaonkar, Jimit Doshi, Christos Davatzikos, Russell T. Shinohara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Understanding structural changes in the brain that are caused by a particular disease is a major goal of neuroimaging research. Multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) comprises a collection of tools that can be used to understand complex disease efxcfects across the brain. We discuss several important issues that must be considered when analyzing data from neuroimaging studies using MVPA. In particular, we focus on the consequences of confounding by non-imaging variables such as age and sex on the results of MVPA. After reviewing current practice to address confounding in neuroimaging studies, we propose an alternative approach based on inverse probability weighting. Although the proposed method is motivated by neuroimaging applications, it is broadly applicable to many problems in machine learning and predictive modeling. We demonstrate the advantages of our approach on simulated and real data examples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-44
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Biostatistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • Multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA)
  • confounding
  • inverse probability weighting
  • machine learning
  • predictive modeling
  • structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • support vector machine (SVM)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


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