Deciphering Machine Learning Decisions to Distinguish between Posterior Fossa Tumor Types Using MRI Features: What Do the Data Tell Us?

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Tanyel T., Nadarajan C., Duc N. M., Keserci B.

Cancers, vol.15, no.16, 2023 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 15 Issue: 16
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.3390/cancers15164015
  • Journal Name: Cancers
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, BIOSIS, CAB Abstracts, CINAHL, EMBASE, Veterinary Science Database, Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Keywords: exploratory data analysis, kernel density estimation, machine learning, magnetic resonance imaging, posterior fossa pediatric brain tumors
  • Yıldız Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Machine learning (ML) models have become capable of making critical decisions on our behalf. Nevertheless, due to complexity of these models, interpreting their decisions can be challenging, and humans cannot always control them. This paper provides explanations of decisions made by ML models in diagnosing four types of posterior fossa tumors: medulloblastoma, ependymoma, pilocytic astrocytoma, and brainstem glioma. The proposed methodology involves data analysis using kernel density estimations with Gaussian distributions to examine individual MRI features, conducting an analysis on the relationships between these features, and performing a comprehensive analysis of ML model behavior. This approach offers a simple yet informative and reliable means of identifying and validating distinguishable MRI features for the diagnosis of pediatric brain tumors. By presenting a comprehensive analysis of the responses of the four pediatric tumor types to each other and to ML models in a single source, this study aims to bridge the knowledge gap in the existing literature concerning the relationship between ML and medical outcomes. The results highlight that employing a simplistic approach in the absence of very large datasets leads to significantly more pronounced and explainable outcomes, as expected. Additionally, the study also demonstrates that the pre-analysis results consistently align with the outputs of the ML models and the clinical findings reported in the existing literature.