The role of machine learning in neuroimaging for drug discovery and development

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32 Citations (Scopus)


Neuroimaging has been identified as a potentially powerful probe for the in vivo study of drug effects on the brain with utility across several phases of drug development spanning preclinical and clinical investigations. Specifically, neuroimaging can provide insight into drug penetration and distribution, target engagement, pharmacodynamics, mechanistic action and potential indicators of clinical efficacy. In this review, we focus on machine learning approaches for neuroimaging which enable us to make predictions at the individual level based on the distributed effects across the whole brain. Crucially, these approaches can be trained on data from one study and applied to an independent study and, unlike group-level statistics, can be readily use to assess the generalisability to unseen data. In this review, we present examples and suggestions for how machine learning could help answer fundamental questions spanning the drug discovery pipeline: (1) Who should I recruit for this study? (2) What should I measure and when should I measure it? (3) How does the pharmacological agent behave using an experimental medicine model?, and (4) How does a compound differ from and/or resemble existing compounds? Specifically, we present studies from the literature and we suggest areas for the focus of future development. Further refinement and tailoring of machine learning techniques may help realise their tremendous potential for drug discovery and drug validation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4179-4189
Number of pages11
Issue number21
Early online date28 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


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