Multi-site benchmark classification of major depressive disorder using machine learning on cortical and subcortical measures

ENIGMA Major Depressive Disorder working group, Vladimir Belov, Tracy Erwin-Grabner, Moji Aghajani, Andre Aleman, Alyssa R Amod, Zeynep Basgoze, Francesco Benedetti, Bianca Besteher, Robin Bülow, Christopher R K Ching, Colm G Connolly, Kathryn Cullen, Christopher G Davey, Danai Dima, Annemiek Dols, Jennifer W Evans, Cynthia H Y Fu, Ali Saffet Gonul, Ian H GotlibHans J Grabe, Nynke Groenewold, J Paul Hamilton, Ben J Harrison, Tiffany C Ho, Benson Mwangi, Natalia Jaworska, Neda Jahanshad, Bonnie Klimes-Dougan, Sheri-Michelle Koopowitz, Thomas Lancaster, Meng Li, David E J Linden, Frank P MacMaster, David M A Mehler, Elisa Melloni, Bryon A Mueller, Amar Ojha, Mardien L Oudega, Brenda W J H Penninx, Sara Poletti, Edith Pomarol-Clotet, Maria J Portella, Elena Pozzi, Liesbeth Reneman, Matthew D Sacchet, Philipp G Sämann, Anouk Schrantee, Kang Sim, Jair C Soares, Dan J Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Machine learning (ML) techniques have gained popularity in the neuroimaging field due to their potential for classifying neuropsychiatric disorders. However, the diagnostic predictive power of the existing algorithms has been limited by small sample sizes, lack of representativeness, data leakage, and/or overfitting. Here, we overcome these limitations with the largest multi-site sample size to date (N = 5365) to provide a generalizable ML classification benchmark of major depressive disorder (MDD) using shallow linear and non-linear models. Leveraging brain measures from standardized ENIGMA analysis pipelines in FreeSurfer, we were able to classify MDD versus healthy controls (HC) with a balanced accuracy of around 62%. But after harmonizing the data, e.g., using ComBat, the balanced accuracy dropped to approximately 52%. Accuracy results close to random chance levels were also observed in stratified groups according to age of onset, antidepressant use, number of episodes and sex. Future studies incorporating higher dimensional brain imaging/phenotype features, and/or using more advanced machine and deep learning methods may yield more encouraging prospects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1084
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2024


  • Humans
  • Depressive Disorder, Major/diagnostic imaging
  • Benchmarking
  • Brain/diagnostic imaging
  • Neuroimaging/methods
  • Machine Learning
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging/methods


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