Development and application of rule- and learning-based approaches within the scope of neuroimaging

Tensor voting, tractography and machine learning

Time: Mon 2020-05-18 09.00

Location:, (English)

Subject area: Applied Medical Technology

Doctoral student: Daniel Jörgens , Medicinsk avbildning

Opponent: Assoc. Professor Jesper Andersson, FMRIB-Centre, Oxford University

Supervisor: Assoc. Professor Rodrigo Moreno, Medicinsk avbildning; Professor Örjan Smedby, Medicinsk avbildning; Chunliang Wang, Medicinsk avbildning


The opportunity to non-invasively probe the structure and function of different parts of the human body makes medical imaging an indispensable tool in clinical diagnostics and related fields of research. Especially neuroscientists rely on modalities like structural or functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Computed Tomography or Positron Emission Tomography to study the human brain in vivo. But also in clinical routine, diagnosis, screening or follow-up of different pathological conditions build upon the use of neuroimaging.

Computational solutions are essential for the analysis of medical images. While in the case of conventional photography the recorded signal comprises the actual image, most medical imaging devices require the reconstruction of an image from the acquired data. However, not only the image formation, but also further processing tasks to assist doctors or researchers in the interpretation of the data and eventually in subsequent decision making, rely more and more on automation. Typical tasks range from locating and measuring objects in a single patient, e.g. a particular organ, a tumour or a specific region in the brain, to comparing such measurements over time between groups consisting of large numbers of subjects. Automated solutions for these scenarios are required to model complex relations of data in the presence of acquisition noise and subject variability while assuring a tractable computational demand.

Traditionally, the development of computational algorithms for medical imaging problems focused on rule-based strategies. Explicitly defined rules that encode the knowledge of the developer are characteristic for such approaches. Within the last decade, this paradigm began to change and learning-based models dramatically gained in popularity. These rely on fitting a complex model to large amounts of data samples, often annotated, which are representative for a particular problem. Instead of manually designing the sought-after solution, it is ‘learned from the data’. While these models have shown enormous potential, they also pose important questions for method developers. How can I get hold of enough data? How much data is enough? How can I obtain proper annotations?

This thesis comprises six studies covering the development and the application of methods along the whole pipeline of medical image analysis. Studies I and II propose different extensions to the method of tensor voting to make it applicable in specific medical imaging problems. Studies III–V address the use of modern machine learning techniques, in particular neural networks, in the field of tractography. Notably, the challenge of obtaining adequately annotated data samples is a topic in Study V. In Study VI, a prospective neuroimaging study of unilateral ear canal atresia in adults is presented, covering the application of methods from data acquisition to group comparison. Overall, the compiled works contributed, in one way or the other, to the non-invasive extraction of knowledge from the human body through automated processing of medical images.