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It is important for many quantitative brain studies to label meaningful anatomical regions in MR brainimages. However, due to high complexity of brain structures and ambiguous boundaries between different anatomical regions, the anatomical labeling of MR brainimages is still quite a challenging task. In many existing label fusion methods, appearance information is widely used. However, since local anatomy in the human brain is often complex, the appearance information alone is limited in characterizing each image point, especially for identifying the same anatomical structure across different subjects. Recent progress in computer vision suggests that the context features can be very useful in identifying an object from a complex scene. In light of this, the authors propose a novel learning-based label fusion method by using both low-level appearance features (computed from the target image) and high-level context features (computed from warped atlases or tentative labeling maps of the target image).

In particular, the authors employ a multi-channel random forest to learn the nonlinear relationship between these hybrid features and target labels (i.e., corresponding to certain anatomical structures). Specifically, at each of the iterations, the random forest will output tentative labeling maps of the target image, from which the authors compute spatial label context features and then use in combination with original appearance features of the target image to refine the labeling. Moreover, to accommodate the high inter-subject variations, the authors further extend their learning-based label fusion to a multi-atlas scenario, i.e., they train a random forest for each atlas and then obtain the final labeling result according to the consensus of results from all atlases.

The authors have comprehensively evaluated their method on both public LONI_LBPA40 and IXI datasets. To quantitatively evaluate the labeling accuracy, the authors use the dice similarity coefficient to measure the overlap degree. Their method achieves average overlaps of 82.56% on 54 regions of interest (ROIs) and 79.78% on 80 ROIs, respectively, which significantly outperform the baseline method (random forests), with the average overlaps of 72.48% on 54 ROIs and 72.09% on 80 ROIs, respectively.

The proposed methods have achieved the highest labeling accuracy, compared to several state-of-the-art methods in the literature.


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