Deep Learning for Low-Field to High-Field MR: Image Quality Transfer with Probabilistic Decimation Simulator

by   Hongxiang Lin, et al.

MR images scanned at low magnetic field (<1T) have lower resolution in the slice direction and lower contrast, due to a relatively small signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) than those from high field (typically 1.5T and 3T). We adapt the recent idea of Image Quality Transfer (IQT) to enhance very low-field structural images aiming to estimate the resolution, spatial coverage, and contrast of high-field images. Analogous to many learning-based image enhancement techniques, IQT generates training data from high-field scans alone by simulating low-field images through a pre-defined decimation model. However, the ground truth decimation model is not well-known in practice, and lack of its specification can bias the trained model, aggravating performance on the real low-field scans. In this paper we propose a probabilistic decimation simulator to improve robustness of model training. It is used to generate and augment various low-field images whose parameters are random variables and sampled from an empirical distribution related to tissue-specific SNR on a 0.36T scanner. The probabilistic decimation simulator is model-agnostic, that is, it can be used with any super-resolution networks. Furthermore we propose a variant of U-Net architecture to improve its learning performance. We show promising qualitative results from clinical low-field images confirming the strong efficacy of IQT in an important new application area: epilepsy diagnosis in sub-Saharan Africa where only low-field scanners are normally available.


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