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AIMI Journal Club: Development and Validation of a Deep Learning Model for Earlier Detection of Cognitive Decline From Clinical Notes in Electronic Health Records - Liqin Wang, PhD

Event Details:

Thursday, March 10, 2022
3:00pm - 4:00pm PST



Liqin Wang, PhD

Detecting cognitive decline earlier among older adults can facilitate enrollment in clinical trials and early interventions. Clinical notes in longitudinal electronic health records (EHRs) provide opportunities to detect cognitive decline earlier than it is noted in structured EHR fields as formal diagnoses.


To develop and validate a deep learning model to detect evidence of cognitive decline from clinical notes in the EHR.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Notes documented 4 years preceding the initial mild cognitive impairment (MCI) diagnosis were extracted from Mass General Brigham’s Enterprise Data Warehouse for patients aged 50 years or older and with initial MCI diagnosis during 2019. The study was conducted from March 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021. Sections of notes for cognitive decline were labeled manually and 2 reference data sets were created. Data set I contained a random sample of 4950 note sections filtered by a list of keywords related to cognitive functions and was used for model training and testing. Data set II contained 2000 randomly selected sections without keyword filtering for assessing whether the model performance was dependent on specific keywords.

Main Outcomes and Measures

A deep learning model and 4 baseline models were developed and their performance was compared using the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC) and area under the precision recall curve (AUPRC).


Data set I represented 1969 patients (1046 [53.1%] women; mean [SD] age, 76.0 [13.3] years). Data set II comprised 1161 patients (619 [53.3%] women; mean [SD] age, 76.5 [10.2] years). With some overlap of patients deleted, the unique population was 2166. Cognitive decline was noted in 1453 sections (29.4%) in data set I and 69 sections (3.45%) in data set II. Compared with the 4 baseline models, the deep learning model achieved the best performance in both data sets, with AUROC of 0.971 (95% CI, 0.967-0.976) and AUPRC of 0.933 (95% CI, 0.921-0.944) for data set I and AUROC of 0.997 (95% CI, 0.994-0.999) and AUPRC of 0.929 (95% CI, 0.870-0.969) for data set II.

Conclusions and Relevance

In this diagnostic study, a deep learning model accurately detected cognitive decline from clinical notes preceding MCI diagnosis and had better performance than keyword-based search and other machine learning models. These results suggest that a deep learning model could be used for earlier detection of cognitive decline in the EHRs.


Dr. Wang is a health informatics data scientist with a strong research interest in disease phenotyping, medical knowledge discovery, and disease prognosis using large-scale electronic health record (EHR) data and advanced informatics methods. I am currently appointed as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Prior to that, I earned a PhD in Biomedical Informatics from University of Utah.

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