icobrain ms 5.1: Combining unsupervised and supervised approaches for improving the detection of multiple sclerosis lesions

Neuroimage Clin. 2021;31:102707. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2021.102707. Epub 2021 Jun 4.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune, inflammatory neurological disease of the central nervous system. Its diagnosis nowadays commonly includes performing an MRI scan, as it is the most sensitive imaging test for MS. MS plaques are commonly identified from fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) images as hyperintense regions that are highly varying in terms of their shapes, sizes and locations, and are routinely classified in accordance to the McDonald criteria. Recent years have seen an increase in works that aimed at development of various semi-automatic and automatic methods for detection, segmentation and classification of MS plaques. In this paper, we present an automatic combined method, based on two pipelines: a traditional unsupervised machine learning technique and a deep-learning attention-gate 3D U-net network. The deep-learning network is specifically trained to address the weaker points of the traditional approach, namely difficulties in segmenting infratentorial and juxtacortical plaques in real-world clinical MRIs. It was trained and validated on a multi-center multi-scanner dataset that contains 159 cases, each with T1 weighted (T1w) and FLAIR images, as well as manual delineations of the MS plaques, segmented and validated by a panel of raters. The detection rate was quantified using lesion-wise Dice score. A simple label fusion is implemented to combine the output segmentations of the two pipelines. This combined method improves the detection of infratentorial and juxtacortical lesions by 14% and 31% respectively, in comparison to the unsupervised machine learning pipeline that was used as a performance assessment baseline.

Keywords: Attention-gate U-net; Combined classification; Deep-learning; Lesion segmentation; Multiple sclerosis; Unsupervised machine learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / diagnostic imaging
  • Unsupervised Machine Learning