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Use of Artificial Networks in Clinical Trials: A Pilot Study to Predict Responsiveness to Donepezil in Alzheimer's Disease


Address correspondence to Patrizia Mecocci, MD, PhD, Department of Gerontology and Geriatrics, University of Perugia, Via Eugubina 42, 06122 Perugia, Italy. E-mail:


OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the accuracy of artificial neural networks compared with discriminant analysis in classifying positive and negative response to the cholinesterase inhibitor donepezil in a group of Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients.

DESIGN: Convenience sample.

SETTING: Patients with mild to moderate AD consecutively admitted to a geriatric day hospital and treated with donepezil 5 mg/day.

PARTICIPANTS: Sixty-one older patients of both sexes with AD.

MEASUREMENTS: Accuracy in detecting subjects sensitive (responders) or not (nonresponders) to 3-month therapy with ANNs. The criterion standard for evaluation of efficacy was the scores of Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale—Cognitive portion and Clinician's Interview Based Impression of Change—plus scales.

RESULTS: ANNs were more effective in discriminating between responders and nonresponders than other advanced statistical methods, particularly linear discriminant analysis. The total accuracy in predicting the outcome was 92.59%.

CONCLUSIONS: ANNs appear to be a useful tool in detecting patient responsiveness to pharmacological treatment in AD.