Performance-based classifier combination in atlas-based image segmentation using expectation-maximization parameter estimation

Torsten Rohlfing, Daniel B Russakoff, Calvin R Maurer
IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging 2004, 23 (8): 983-94
It is well known in the pattern recognition community that the accuracy of classifications obtained by combining decisions made by independent classifiers can be substantially higher than the accuracy of the individual classifiers. We have previously shown this to be true for atlas-based segmentation of biomedical images. The conventional method for combining individual classifiers weights each classifier equally (vote or sum rule fusion). In this paper, we propose two methods that estimate the performances of the individual classifiers and combine the individual classifiers by weighting them according to their estimated performance. The two methods are multiclass extensions of an expectation-maximization (EM) algorithm for ground truth estimation of binary classification based on decisions of multiple experts (Warfield et al., 2004). The first method performs parameter estimation independently for each class with a subsequent integration step. The second method considers all classes simultaneously. We demonstrate the efficacy of these performance-based fusion methods by applying them to atlas-based segmentations of three-dimensional confocal microscopy images of bee brains. In atlas-based image segmentation, multiple classifiers arise naturally by applying different registration methods to the same atlas, or the same registration method to different atlases, or both. We perform a validation study designed to quantify the success of classifier combination methods in atlas-based segmentation. By applying random deformations, a given ground truth atlas is transformed into multiple segmentations that could result from imperfect registrations of an image to multiple atlas images. In a second evaluation study, multiple actual atlas-based segmentations are combined and their accuracies computed by comparing them to a manual segmentation. We demonstrate in both evaluation studies that segmentations produced by combining multiple individual registration-based segmentations are more accurate for the two classifier fusion methods we propose, which weight the individual classifiers according to their EM-based performance estimates, than for simple sum rule fusion, which weights each classifier equally.

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