Knowledge Transfer for Few-shot Segmentation of Novel White Matter Tracts

30 May 2021  ·  Qi Lu, Chuyang Ye ·

Convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have achieved stateof-the-art performance for white matter (WM) tract segmentation based on diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI). These CNNs require a large number of manual delineations of the WM tracts of interest for training, which are generally labor-intensive and costly. The expensive manual delineation can be a particular disadvantage when novel WM tracts, i.e., tracts that have not been included in existing manual delineations, are to be analyzed. To accurately segment novel WM tracts, it is desirable to transfer the knowledge learned about existing WM tracts, so that even with only a few delineations of the novel WM tracts, CNNs can learn adequately for the segmentation. In this paper, we explore the transfer of such knowledge to the segmentation of novel WM tracts in the few-shot setting. Although a classic fine-tuning strategy can be used for the purpose, the information in the last task-specific layer for segmenting existing WM tracts is completely discarded. We hypothesize that the weights of this last layer can bear valuable information for segmenting the novel WM tracts and thus completely discarding the information is not optimal. In particular, we assume that the novel WM tracts can correlate with existing WM tracts and the segmentation of novel WM tracts can be predicted with the logits of existing WM tracts. In this way, better initialization of the last layer than random initialization can be achieved for fine-tuning. Further, we show that a more adaptive use of the knowledge in the last layer for segmenting existing WM tracts can be conveniently achieved by simply inserting a warmup stage before classic fine-tuning. The proposed method was evaluated on a publicly available dMRI dataset, where we demonstrate the benefit of our method for few-shot segmentation of novel WM tracts.

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