Brain segmentation from computed tomography of healthy aging and geriatric concussion at variable spatial resolutions

Andrei Irimia, Alexander S. Maher, Kenneth A. Rostowsky, Nahian F. Chowdhury, Darryl H. Hwang, E. Meng Law

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18 Citations (Scopus)


When properly implemented and processed, anatomic T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be ideal for the noninvasive quantification of white matter (WM) and gray matter (GM) in the living human brain. Although MRI is more suitable for distinguishing GM from WM than computed tomography (CT), the growing clinical use of the latter technique has renewed interest in head CT segmentation. Such interest is particularly strong in settings where MRI is unavailable, logistically unfeasible or prohibitively expensive. Nevertheless, whereas MRI segmentation is a sophisticated and technically-mature research field, the task of automatically classifying soft brain tissues from CT remains largely unexplored. Furthermore, brain segmentation methods for MRI hold considerable potential for adaptation and application to CT image processing. Here we demonstrate this by combining probabilistic, atlas-based classification with topologically-constrained tissue boundary refinement to delineate WM, GM and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from head CT images. The feasibility and utility of this approach are revealed by comparison of MRI-only vs. CT-only segmentations in geriatric concussion victims with both MRI and CT scans. Comparison of the two segmentations yields mean Sørensen-Dice coefficients of 85.5 ± 4.6% (WM), 86.7 ± 5.6% (GM) and 91.3 ± 2.8% (CSF), as well as average Hausdorff distances of 3.76 ± 1.85 mm (WM), 3.43 ± 1.53 mm (GM) and 2.46 ± 1.27 mm (CSF). Bootstrapping results suggest that the segmentation approach is sensitive enough to yield WM, GM and CSF volume estimates within ~5%, ~4%, and ~3% of their MRI-based estimates, respectively. To our knowledge, this is the first 3D segmentation approach for CT to undergo rigorous within-subject comparison with high-resolution MRI. Results suggest that (1) standard-quality CT allows WM/GM/CSF segmentation with reasonable accuracy, and that (2) the task of soft brain tissue classification from CT merits further attention from neuroimaging researchers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Neuroinformatics
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2019


  • Computed tomography
  • Concussion
  • Geriatrics
  • Multimodal imaging
  • Segmentation
  • Tissue classification

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