Deep learning models have shown great promise in estimating tissue microstructure from limited diffusion magnetic resonance imaging data. However, these models face domain shift challenges when test and train data are from different scanners and protocols, or when the models are applied to data with inherent variations such as the developing brains of infants and children scanned at various ages. Several techniques have been proposed to address some of these challenges, such as data harmonization or domain adaptation in the adult brain. However, those techniques remain unexplored for the estimation of fiber orientation distribution functions in the rapidly developing brains of infants. In this work, we extensively investigate the age effect and domain shift within and across two different cohorts of 201 newborns and 165 babies using the Method of Moments and fine-tuning strategies. Our results show that reduced variations in the microstructural development of babies in comparison to newborns directly impact the deep learning models' cross-age performance. We also demonstrate that a small number of target domain samples can significantly mitigate domain shift problems.
Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) is widely used to assess the brain white matter. One of the most common computations in dMRI involves cross-subject tract-specific analysis, whereby dMRI-derived biomarkers are compared between cohorts of subjects. The accuracy and reliability of these studies hinges on the ability to compare precisely the same white matter tracts across subjects. This is an intricate and error-prone computation. Existing computational methods such as Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS) suffer from a host of shortcomings and limitations that can seriously undermine the validity of the results. We present a new computational framework that overcomes the limitations of existing methods via (i) accurate segmentation of the tracts, and (ii) precise registration of data from different subjects/scans. The registration is based on fiber orientation distributions. To further improve the alignment of cross-subject data, we create detailed atlases of white matter tracts. These atlases serve as an unbiased reference space where the data from all subjects is registered for comparison. Extensive evaluations show that, compared with TBSS, our proposed framework offers significantly higher reproducibility and robustness to data perturbations. Our method promises a drastic improvement in accuracy and reproducibility of cross-subject dMRI studies that are routinely used in neuroscience and medical research.
The brain white matter consists of a set of tracts that connect distinct regions of the brain. Segmentation of these tracts is often needed for clinical and research studies. Diffusion-weighted MRI offers unique contrast to delineate these tracts. However, existing segmentation methods rely on intermediate computations such as tractography or estimation of fiber orientation density. These intermediate computations, in turn, entail complex computations that can result in unnecessary errors. Moreover, these intermediate computations often require dense multi-shell measurements that are unavailable in many clinical and research applications. As a result, current methods suffer from low accuracy and poor generalizability. Here, we propose a new deep learning method that segments these tracts directly from the diffusion MRI data, thereby sidestepping the intermediate computation errors. Our experiments show that this method can achieve segmentation accuracy that is on par with the state of the art methods (mean Dice Similarity Coefficient of 0.826). Compared with the state of the art, our method offers far superior generalizability to undersampled data that are typical of clinical studies and to data obtained with different acquisition protocols. Moreover, we propose a new method for detecting inaccurate segmentations and show that it is more accurate than standard methods that are based on estimation uncertainty quantification. The new methods can serve many critically important clinical and scientific applications that require accurate and reliable non-invasive segmentation of white matter tracts.
Resting-state functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) is a powerful imaging technique for studying functional development of the brain in utero. However, unpredictable and excessive movement of fetuses have limited its clinical applicability. Previous studies have focused primarily on the accurate estimation of the motion parameters employing a single step 3D interpolation at each individual time frame to recover a motion-free 4D fMRI image. Using only information from a 3D spatial neighborhood neglects the temporal structure of fMRI and useful information from neighboring timepoints. Here, we propose a novel technique based on four dimensional iterative reconstruction of the motion scattered fMRI slices. Quantitative evaluation of the proposed method on a cohort of real clinical fetal fMRI data indicates improvement of reconstruction quality compared to the conventional 3D interpolation approaches.
Diffusion MRI (dMRI) of the developing brain can provide valuable insights into the white matter development. However, slice thickness in fetal dMRI is typically high (i.e., 3-5 mm) to freeze the in-plane motion, which reduces the sensitivity of the dMRI signal to the underlying anatomy. In this study, we aim at overcoming this problem by using autoencoders to learn unsupervised efficient representations of brain slices in a latent space, using raw dMRI signals and their spherical harmonics (SH) representation. We first learn and quantitatively validate the autoencoders on the developing Human Connectome Project pre-term newborn data, and further test the method on fetal data. Our results show that the autoencoder in the signal domain better synthesized the raw signal. Interestingly, the fractional anisotropy and, to a lesser extent, the mean diffusivity, are best recovered in missing slices by using the autoencoder trained with SH coefficients. A comparison was performed with the same maps reconstructed using an autoencoder trained with raw signals, as well as conventional interpolation methods of raw signals and SH coefficients. From these results, we conclude that the recovery of missing/corrupted slices should be performed in the signal domain if the raw signal is aimed to be recovered, and in the SH domain if diffusion tensor properties (i.e., fractional anisotropy) are targeted. Notably, the trained autoencoders were able to generalize to fetal dMRI data acquired using a much smaller number of diffusion gradients and a lower b-value, where we qualitatively show the consistency of the estimated diffusion tensor maps.
The fetal cortical plate (CP) undergoes drastic morphological changes during the in utero development. Therefore, CP growth and folding patterns are key indicator in the assessment of the brain development and maturation. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) offers specific insights for the analysis of quantitative imaging biomarkers. Nonetheless, accurate and, more importantly, topologically correct MR image segmentation remains the key baseline to such analysis. In this study, we propose a deep learning segmentation framework for automatic and morphologically consistent segmentation of the CP in fetal brain MRI. Our contribution is two fold. First, we generalized a multi-dimensional topological loss function in order to enhance the topological accuracy. Second, we introduced hole ratio, a new topology-based validation measure that quantifies the size of the topological defects taking into account the size of the structure of interest. Using two publicly available datasets, we quantitatively evaluated our proposed method based on three complementary metrics which are overlap-, distance- and topology-based on 27 fetal brains. Our results evidence that our topology-integrative framework outperforms state-of-the-art training loss functions on super-resolution reconstructed clinical MRI, not only in shape correctness but also in the classical evaluation metrics. Furthermore, results on additional 31 out-of-domain SR reconstructions from clinical acquisitions were qualitatively assessed by three experts. The experts' consensus ranked our TopoCP method as the best segmentation in 100\% of the cases with a high inter-expert agreement. Overall, both quantitative and qualitative results, on a wide range of gestational ages and number of cases, support the generalizability and added value of our topology-guided framework for fetal CP segmentation.
In-utero fetal MRI is emerging as an important tool in the diagnosis and analysis of the developing human brain. Automatic segmentation of the developing fetal brain is a vital step in the quantitative analysis of prenatal neurodevelopment both in the research and clinical context. However, manual segmentation of cerebral structures is time-consuming and prone to error and inter-observer variability. Therefore, we organized the Fetal Tissue Annotation (FeTA) Challenge in 2021 in order to encourage the development of automatic segmentation algorithms on an international level. The challenge utilized FeTA Dataset, an open dataset of fetal brain MRI reconstructions segmented into seven different tissues (external cerebrospinal fluid, grey matter, white matter, ventricles, cerebellum, brainstem, deep grey matter). 20 international teams participated in this challenge, submitting a total of 21 algorithms for evaluation. In this paper, we provide a detailed analysis of the results from both a technical and clinical perspective. All participants relied on deep learning methods, mainly U-Nets, with some variability present in the network architecture, optimization, and image pre- and post-processing. The majority of teams used existing medical imaging deep learning frameworks. The main differences between the submissions were the fine tuning done during training, and the specific pre- and post-processing steps performed. The challenge results showed that almost all submissions performed similarly. Four of the top five teams used ensemble learning methods. However, one team's algorithm performed significantly superior to the other submissions, and consisted of an asymmetrical U-Net network architecture. This paper provides a first of its kind benchmark for future automatic multi-tissue segmentation algorithms for the developing human brain in utero.
* Results from FeTA Challenge 2021, held at MICCAI; Manuscript
Resting-state functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) is a powerful imaging technique for studying functional development of the brain in utero. However, unpredictable and excessive movement of fetuses has limited clinical application since it causes substantial signal fluctuations which can systematically alter observed patterns of functional connectivity. Previous studies have focused on the accurate estimation of the motion parameters in case of large fetal head movement and used a 3D single step interpolation approach at each timepoint to recover motion-free fMRI images. This does not guarantee that the reconstructed image corresponds to the minimum error representation of fMRI time series given the acquired data. Here, we propose a novel technique based on four dimensional iterative reconstruction of the scattered slices acquired during fetal fMRI. The accuracy of the proposed method was quantitatively evaluated on a group of real clinical fMRI fetuses. The results indicate improvements of reconstruction quality compared to the conventional 3D interpolation approach.
* 5 pages, 3 figures. This work has been submitted to the IEEE for
possible publication. Copyright may be transferred without notice, after
which this version may no longer be accessible
The quantitative assessment of the developing human brain in utero is crucial to fully understand neurodevelopment. Thus, automated multi-tissue fetal brain segmentation algorithms are being developed, which in turn require annotated data to be trained. However, the available annotated fetal brain datasets are limited in number and heterogeneity, hampering domain adaptation strategies for robust segmentation. In this context, we use FaBiAN, a Fetal Brain magnetic resonance Acquisition Numerical phantom, to simulate various realistic magnetic resonance images of the fetal brain along with its class labels. We demonstrate that these multiple synthetic annotated data, generated at no cost and further reconstructed using the target super-resolution technique, can be successfully used for domain adaptation of a deep learning method that segments seven brain tissues. Overall, the accuracy of the segmentation is significantly enhanced, especially in the cortical gray matter, the white matter, the cerebellum, the deep gray matter and the brain stem.
* 4 pages, 4 figures. This work has been submitted to the IEEE for
possible publication. Copyright may be transferred without notice, after
which this version may no longer be accessible
Accurate characterization of in utero human brain maturation is critical as it involves complex and interconnected structural and functional processes that may influence health later in life. Magnetic resonance imaging is a powerful tool to investigate equivocal neurological patterns during fetal development. However, the number of acquisitions of satisfactory quality available in this cohort of sensitive subjects remains scarce, thus hindering the validation of advanced image processing techniques. Numerical phantoms can mitigate these limitations by providing a controlled environment with a known ground truth. In this work, we present FaBiAN, an open-source Fetal Brain magnetic resonance Acquisition Numerical phantom that simulates clinical T2-weighted fast spin echo sequences of the fetal brain. This unique tool is based on a general, flexible and realistic setup that includes stochastic fetal movements, thus providing images of the fetal brain throughout maturation comparable to clinical acquisitions. We demonstrate its value to evaluate the robustness and optimize the accuracy of an algorithm for super-resolution fetal brain magnetic resonance imaging from simulated motion-corrupted 2D low-resolution series as compared to a synthetic high-resolution reference volume. We also show that the images generated can complement clinical datasets to support data-intensive deep learning methods for fetal brain tissue segmentation.