Tissue segmentation of infant brain MRIs with risk of autism is critically important for characterizing early brain development and identifying biomarkers. However, it is challenging due to low tissue contrast caused by inherent ongoing myelination and maturation. In particular, at around 6 months of age, the voxel intensities in both gray matter and white matter are within similar ranges, thus leading to the lowest image contrast in the first postnatal year. Previous studies typically employed intensity images and tentatively estimated tissue probabilities to train a sequence of classifiers for tissue segmentation. However, the important prior knowledge of brain anatomy is largely ignored during the segmentation. Consequently, the segmentation accuracy is still limited and topological errors frequently exist, which will significantly degrade the performance of subsequent analyses. Although topological errors could be partially handled by retrospective topological correction methods, their results may still be anatomically incorrect. To address these challenges, in this article, we propose an anatomy-guided joint tissue segmentation and topological correction framework for isointense infant MRI. Particularly, we adopt a signed distance map with respect to the outer cortical surface as anatomical prior knowledge, and incorporate such prior information into the proposed framework to guide segmentation in ambiguous regions. Experimental results on the subjects acquired from National Database for Autism Research demonstrate the effectiveness to topological errors and also some levels of robustness to motion. Comparisons with the state-of-the-art methods further demonstrate the advantages of the proposed method in terms of both segmentation accuracy and topological correctness.
Keywords: anatomical guidance; autism; isointense phase; level set; segmentation.
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.