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Deep learning has huge potential for accurate disease prediction with neuroimaging data, but the prediction performance is often limited by training-dataset size and computing memory requirements. To address this, we propose a deep convolutional neural network model, Simple Fully Convolutional Network (SFCN), for accurate prediction of brain age using T1-weighted structural MRI data. Compared with other popular deep network architectures, SFCN has fewer parameters, so is more compatible with small dataset size and 3D volume data. The network architecture was combined with several techniques for boosting performance, including data augmentation, pre-training, model regularization, model ensemble and prediction bias correction. We compared our overall SFCN approach with several widely-used machine learning models. It achieved state-of-the-art performance in UK Biobank data (N = 14,503), with mean absolute error (MAE) = 2.14y in brain age prediction and 99.5% in sex classification. SFCN also won (both parts of) the 2019 Predictive Analysis Challenge for brain age prediction, involving 79 competing teams (N = 2,638, MAE = 2.90y). We describe here the details of our approach, and its optimisation and validation. Our approach can easily be generalised to other tasks using different image modalities, and is released on GitHub.

Original publication




Journal article


Med Image Anal

Publication Date





Brain age prediction, Convolutional neuralnetworks, Neuroimaging, Predictive analysis