A magnetic resonance multi-atlas for the neonatal rabbit brain

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The rabbit model has become increasingly popular in neurodevelopmental studies as it is best suited to bridge the gap in translational research between small and large animals. In the context of preclinical studies, high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is often the best modality to investigate structural and functional variability of the brain, both in vivo and ex vivo. In most of the MRI-based studies, an important requirement to analyze the acquisitions is an accurate parcellation of the considered anatomical structures. Manual segmentation is time-consuming and typically poorly reproducible, while state-of-the-art automated segmentation algorithms rely on available atlases. In this work we introduce the first digital neonatal rabbit brain atlas consisting of 12 multi-modal acquisitions, parcellated into 89 areas according to a hierarchical taxonomy. Delineations were performed iteratively, alternating between segmentation propagation, label fusion and manual refinements, with the aim of controlling the quality while minimizing the bias introduced by the chosen sequence. Reliability and accuracy were assessed with cross-validation and intra- and inter-operator test-retests. Multi-atlas, versioned controlled segmentations repository and supplementary materials download links are available from the software repository documentation at https://github.com/gift-surg/SPOT-A-NeonatalRabbit.

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