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Hum Brain Mapp. 2011 Mar;32(3):382-96. doi: 10.1002/hbm.21023.

CENTS: cortical enhanced neonatal tissue segmentation.

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IDEA Lab, Department of Radiology and BRIC, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7515, USA.


The acquisition of high-quality magnetic resonance (MR) images of neonatal brains is largely hampered by their characteristically small head size and insufficient tissue contrast. As a result, subsequent image processing and analysis, especially brain tissue segmentation, are often affected. To overcome this problem, a dedicated phased array neonatal head coil is utilized to improve MR image quality by augmenting signal-to-noise ratio and spatial resolution without lengthening data acquisition time. In addition, a specialized hybrid atlas-based tissue segmentation algorithm is developed for the delineation of fine structures in the acquired neonatal brain MR images. The proposed tissue segmentation method first enhances the sheet-like cortical gray matter (GM) structures in the to-be-segmented neonatal image with a Hessian filter for generation of a cortical GM confidence map. A neonatal population atlas is then generated by averaging the presegmented images of a population, weighted by their cortical GM similarity with respect to the to-be-segmented image. Finally, the neonatal population atlas is combined with the GM confidence map, and the resulting enhanced tissue probability maps for each tissue form a hybrid atlas is used for atlas-based segmentation. Various experiments are conducted to compare the segmentations of the proposed method with manual segmentation (on both images acquired with a dedicated phased array coil and a conventional volume coil), as well as with the segmentations of two population-atlas-based methods. Results show the proposed method is capable of segmenting the neonatal brain with the best accuracy, and also preserving the most structural details in the cortical regions.

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