Interpreting support vector machine models for multivariate group wise analysis in neuroimaging

Alzheimers Disease Neuroimaging Initiative

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Machine learning based classification algorithms like support vector machines (SVMs) have shown great promise for turning a high dimensional neuroimaging data into clinically useful decision criteria. However, tracing imaging based patterns that contribute significantly to classifier decisions remains an open problem. This is an issue of critical importance in imaging studies seeking to determine which anatomical or physiological imaging features contribute to the classifier's decision, thereby allowing users to critically evaluate the findings of such machine learning methods and to understand disease mechanisms. The majority of published work addresses the question of statistical inference for support vector classification using permutation tests based on SVM weight vectors. Such permutation testing ignores the SVM margin, which is critical in SVM theory. In this work we emphasize the use of a statistic that explicitly accounts for the SVM margin and show that the null distributions associated with this statistic are asymptotically normal. Further, our experiments show that this statistic is a lot less conservative as compared to weight based permutation tests and yet specific enough to tease out multivariate patterns in the data. Thus, we can better understand the multivariate patterns that the SVM uses for neuroimaging based classification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-204
Number of pages15
JournalMedical image analysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Analytic approximation
  • Permutation tests
  • SVM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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