Automated extraction of the cortical sulci based on a supervised learning approach

Zhuowen Tu, Songfeng Zheng, Alan L. Yuille, Allan L. Reiss, Rebecca A. Dutton, Agatha D. Lee, Albert M. Galaburda, Ivo Dinov, Paul M. Thompson, Arthur W. Toga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


It is important to detect and extract the major cortical sulci from brain images, but manually annotating these sulci is a time-consuming task and requires the labeler to follow complex protocols [1], [2]. This paper proposes a learning-based algorithm for automated extraction of the major cortical sulci from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) volumes and cortical surfaces. Unlike alternative methods for detecting the major cortical sulci, which use a small number of predefined rules based on properties of the cortical surface such as the mean curvature, our approach learns a discriminative model using the probabilistic boosting tree algorithm (PBT) [3]. PBT is a supervised learning approach which selects and combines hundreds of features at different scales, such as curvatures, gradients and shape index. Our method can be applied to either MRI volumes or cortical surfaces. It first outputs a probability map which indicates how likely each voxel lies on a major sulcal curve. Next, it applies dynamic programming to extract the best curve based on the probability map and a shape prior. The algorithm has almost no parameters to tune for extracting different major sulci. It is very fast (it runs in under l min per sulcus including the time to compute the discriminative models) due to efficient implementation of the features (e.g., using the integral volume to rapidly compute the responses of 3-D Haar filters). Because the algorithm can be applied to MRI volumes directly, there is no need to perform preprocessing such as tissue segmentation or mapping to a canonical space. The learning aspect of our approach makes the system very flexible and general. For illustration, we use volumes of the right hemisphere with several major cortical sulci manually labeled. The algorithm is tested on two groups of data, including some brains from patients with Williams Syndrome, and the results are very encouraging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-552
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cortical sulci
  • Discriminative models
  • Dynamic programming
  • Learning
  • Magnetic resonance (MR) images
  • Probability boosting tree


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