A learning-based wrapper method to correct systematic errors in automatic image segmentation: consistently improved performance in hippocampus, cortex and brain segmentation

Neuroimage. 2011 Apr 1;55(3):968-85. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.01.006. Epub 2011 Jan 13.


We propose a simple but generally applicable approach to improving the accuracy of automatic image segmentation algorithms relative to manual segmentations. The approach is based on the hypothesis that a large fraction of the errors produced by automatic segmentation are systematic, i.e., occur consistently from subject to subject, and serves as a wrapper method around a given host segmentation method. The wrapper method attempts to learn the intensity, spatial and contextual patterns associated with systematic segmentation errors produced by the host method on training data for which manual segmentations are available. The method then attempts to correct such errors in segmentations produced by the host method on new images. One practical use of the proposed wrapper method is to adapt existing segmentation tools, without explicit modification, to imaging data and segmentation protocols that are different from those on which the tools were trained and tuned. An open-source implementation of the proposed wrapper method is provided, and can be applied to a wide range of image segmentation problems. The wrapper method is evaluated with four host brain MRI segmentation methods: hippocampus segmentation using FreeSurfer (Fischl et al., 2002); hippocampus segmentation using multi-atlas label fusion (Artaechevarria et al., 2009); brain extraction using BET (Smith, 2002); and brain tissue segmentation using FAST (Zhang et al., 2001). The wrapper method generates 72%, 14%, 29% and 21% fewer erroneously segmented voxels than the respective host segmentation methods. In the hippocampus segmentation experiment with multi-atlas label fusion as the host method, the average Dice overlap between reference segmentations and segmentations produced by the wrapper method is 0.908 for normal controls and 0.893 for patients with mild cognitive impairment. Average Dice overlaps of 0.964, 0.905 and 0.951 are obtained for brain extraction, white matter segmentation and gray matter segmentation, respectively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Atlases as Topic
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology*
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Software