Discriminative confidence estimation for probabilistic multi-atlas label fusion
Quantitative neuroimaging analyses often rely on the accurate segmentation of anatomical brain structures. In contrast to manual segmentation, automatic methods offer reproducible outputs and provide scalability to study large databases. Among existing approaches, multi-atlas segmentation has recently shown to yield state-of-the-art performance in automatic segmentation of brain images. It consists in propagating the labelmaps from a set of atlases to the anatomy of a target image using image registration, and then fusing these multiple warped labelmaps into a consensus segmentation on the target image. Accurately estimating the contribution of each atlas labelmap to the final segmentation is a critical step for the success of multi-atlas segmentation. Common approaches to label fusion either rely on local patch similarity, probabilistic statistical frameworks or a combination of both. In this work, we propose a probabilistic label fusion framework based on atlas label confidences computed at each voxel of the structure of interest. Maximum likelihood atlas confidences are estimated using a supervised approach, explicitly modeling the relationship between local image appearances and segmentation errors produced by each of the atlases. We evaluate different spatial pooling strategies for modeling local segmentation errors. We also present a novel type of label-dependent appearance features based on atlas labelmaps that are used during confidence estimation to increase the accuracy of our label fusion. Our approach is evaluated on the segmentation of seven subcortical brain structures from the MICCAI 2013 SATA Challenge dataset and the hippocampi from the ADNI dataset. Overall, our results indicate that the proposed label fusion framework achieves superior performance to state-of-the-art approaches in the majority of the evaluated brain structures and shows more robustness to registration errors.