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Hum Brain Mapp. 2010 Sep;31(9):1348-58. doi: 10.1002/hbm.20935.

Atlas-based segmentation of developing tissues in the human brain with quantitative validation in young fetuses.

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Biomedical Image Computing Group, Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143, USA.


Imaging of the human fetus using magnetic resonance (MR) is an essential tool for quantitative studies of normal as well as abnormal brain development in utero. However, because of fundamental differences in tissue types, tissue properties and tissue distribution between the fetal and adult brain, automated tissue segmentation techniques developed for adult brain anatomy are unsuitable for this data. In this paper, we describe methodology for automatic atlas-based segmentation of individual tissue types in motion-corrected 3D volumes reconstructed from clinical MR scans of the fetal brain. To generate anatomically correct automatic segmentations, we create a set of accurate manual delineations and build an in utero 3D statistical atlas of tissue distribution incorporating developing gray and white matter as well as transient tissue types such as the germinal matrix. The probabilistic atlas is associated with an unbiased average shape and intensity template for registration of new subject images to the space of the atlas. Quantitative whole brain 3D validation of tissue labeling performed on a set of 14 fetal MR scans (20.57-22.86 weeks gestational age) demonstrates that this atlas-based EM segmentation approach achieves consistently high DSC performance for the main tissue types in the fetal brain. This work indicates that reliable measures of brain development can be automatically derived from clinical MR imaging and opens up possibility of further 3D volumetric and morphometric studies with multiple fetal subjects.

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