White matter lesions (WML) commonly occur in older brains and are quantifiable on MRI, often used as a biomarker in Aging research. Although algorithms are regularly proposed that identify these lesions from T2-fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) sequences, none so far can estimate lesions directly from T1-weighted images with acceptable accuracy. Since 3D T1 is a polyvalent and higher-resolution sequence, it could be beneficial to obtain the distribution of WML directly from it. However a serious difficulty, both for algorithms and human, can be found in the ambiguities of brain signal intensity in T1 images. This manuscript shows that a cross-domain ConvNet (Convolutional Neural Network) approach can help solve this problem. Still, this is non-trivial, as it would appear to require a large and varied dataset (for robustness) labelled at the same high resolution (for spatial accuracy). Instead, our model was taught from two-dimensional FLAIR images with a loss function designed to handle the super-resolution need. And crucially, we leveraged a very large training set for this task, the recently assembled, multi-sites Japan Prospective Studies Collaboration for Aging and Dementia (JPSC-AD) cohort. We describe the two-step procedure that we followed to handle such a large number of imperfectly labeled samples. A large-scale accuracy evaluation conducted against FreeSurfer 7, and a further visual expert rating revealed that WML segmentation from our ConvNet was consistently better. Finally, we made a directly usable software program based on that trained ConvNet model, available at https://github.com/bthyreau/deep-T1-WMH.
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