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Recently, multi-atlas segmentation (MAS) has achieved a great success in the medical imaging area. The key assumption of MAS is that multiple atlases encompass richer anatomical variability than a single atlas. Therefore, we can label the target image more accurately by mapping the label information from the appropriate atlas images that have the most similar structures. The problem of atlas selection, however, still remains unexplored. Current state-of-the-art MAS methods rely on image similarity to select a set of atlases. Unfortunately, this heuristic criterion is not necessarily related to segmentation performance and, thus may undermine segmentation results. To solve this simple but critical problem, we propose a learning-based atlas selection method to pick up the best atlases that would eventually lead to more accurate image segmentation. Our idea is to learn the relationship between the pairwise appearance of observed instances (a pair of atlas and target images) and their final labeling performance (in terms of Dice ratio). In this way, we can select the best atlases according to their expected labeling accuracy. It is worth noting that our atlas selection method is general enough to be integrated with existing MAS methods. As is shown in the experiments, we achieve significant improvement after we integrate our method with 3 widely used MAS methods on ADNI and LONI LPBA40 datasets.
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