Background: We developed transformer-based deep learning models based on natural language processing for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease from the picture description test.
Methods: The lack of large datasets poses the most important limitation for using complex models that do not require feature engineering. Transformer-based pre-trained deep language models have recently made a large leap in NLP research and application. These models are pre-trained on available large datasets to understand natural language texts appropriately, and are shown to subsequently perform well on classification tasks with small training sets. The overall classification model is a simple classifier on top of the pre-trained deep language model.
Results: The models are evaluated on picture description test transcripts of the Pitt corpus, which contains data of 170 AD patients with 257 interviews and 99 healthy controls with 243 interviews. The large bidirectional encoder representations from transformers (BERTLarge) embedding with logistic regression classifier achieves classification accuracy of 88.08%, which improves the
state-of-the-art by 2.48%.
Conclusions: Using pre-trained language models can improve AD prediction. This not only solves the problem of lack of sufficiently large datasets, but also reduces the need for expert-defined features.