Precise and Rapid Whole-Head Segmentation from Magnetic Resonance Images of Older Adults using Deep Learning

Imaging Neurosci (Camb). 2024 Mar:2:10.1162/imag_a_00090. doi: 10.1162/imag_a_00090. Epub 2024 Feb 13.


Whole-head segmentation from Magnetic Resonance Images (MRI) establishes the foundation for individualized computational models using finite element method (FEM). This foundation paves the path for computer-aided solutions in fields, particularly in non-invasive brain stimulation. Most current automatic head segmentation tools are developed using healthy young adults. Thus, they may neglect the older population that is more prone to age-related structural decline such as brain atrophy. In this work, we present a new deep learning method called GRACE, which stands for General, Rapid, And Comprehensive whole-hEad tissue segmentation. GRACE is trained and validated on a novel dataset that consists of 177 manually corrected MR-derived reference segmentations that have undergone meticulous manual review. Each T1-weighted MRI volume is segmented into 11 tissue types, including white matter, grey matter, eyes, cerebrospinal fluid, air, blood vessel, cancellous bone, cortical bone, skin, fat, and muscle. To the best of our knowledge, this work contains the largest manually corrected dataset to date in terms of number of MRIs and segmented tissues. GRACE outperforms five freely available software tools and a traditional 3D U-Net on a five-tissue segmentation task. On this task, GRACE achieves an average Hausdorff Distance of 0.21, which exceeds the runner-up at an average Hausdorff Distance of 0.36. GRACE can segment a whole-head MRI in about 3 seconds, while the fastest software tool takes about 3 minutes. In summary, GRACE segments a spectrum of tissue types from older adults T1-MRI scans at favorable accuracy and speed. The trained GRACE model is optimized on older adult heads to enable high-precision modeling in age-related brain disorders. To support open science, the GRACE code and trained weights are made available online and open to the research community at

Keywords: Artificial Intelligence; Deep learning; MRI; Non-invasive brain stimulation; Whole-head segmentation.