blob loss: instance imbalance aware loss functions for semantic segmentation

Deep convolutional neural networks have proven to be remarkably effective in semantic segmentation tasks. Most popular loss functions were introduced targeting improved volumetric scores, such as the Sorensen Dice coefficient. By design, DSC can tackle class imbalance; however, it does not recognize instance imbalance within a class. As a result, a large foreground instance can dominate minor instances and still produce a satisfactory Sorensen Dice coefficient. Nevertheless, missing out on instances will lead to poor detection performance. This represents a critical issue in applications such as disease progression monitoring. For example, it is imperative to locate and surveil small-scale lesions in the follow-up of multiple sclerosis patients. We propose a novel family of loss functions, nicknamed blob loss, primarily aimed at maximizing instance-level detection metrics, such as F1 score and sensitivity. Blob loss is designed for semantic segmentation problems in which the instances are the connected components within a class. We extensively evaluate a DSC-based blob loss in five complex 3D semantic segmentation tasks featuring pronounced instance heterogeneity in terms of texture and morphology. Compared to soft Dice loss, we achieve 5 percent improvement for MS lesions, 3 percent improvement for liver tumor, and an average 2 percent improvement for Microscopy segmentation tasks considering F1 score.

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