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BACKGROUND: The use of machine learning to classify diagnostic cases versus controls defined based on diagnostic ontologies such as the ICD-10 from neuroimaging features is now commonplace across a wide range of diagnostic fields. However, transdiagnostic comparisons of such classifications are lacking. Such transdiagnostic comparisons are important to establish the specificity of classification models, set benchmarks, and assess the value of diagnostic ontologies. RESULTS: We investigated case-control classification accuracy in 17 different ICD-10 diagnostic groups from Chapter V (mental and behavioral disorders) and Chapter VI (diseases of the nervous system) using data from the UK Biobank. Classification models were trained using either neuroimaging (structural or functional brain MRI feature sets) or socio-demographic features. Random forest classification models were adopted using rigorous shuffle splits to estimate stability as well as accuracy of case-control classifications. Diagnostic classification accuracies were benchmarked against age classification (oldest versus youngest) from the same feature sets and against additional classifier types (K-nearest neighbors and linear support vector machine). In contrast to age classification accuracy, which was high for all feature sets, few ICD-10 diagnostic groups were classified significantly above chance (namely, demyelinating diseases based on structural neuroimaging features, and depression based on socio-demographic and functional neuroimaging features). CONCLUSION: These findings highlight challenges with the current disease classification system, leading us to recommend caution with the use of ICD-10 diagnostic groups as target labels in brain-based disease prediction studies.

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