A Deep Attentive Convolutional Neural Network for Automatic Cortical Plate Segmentation in Fetal MRI

Haoran Dou, Davood Karimi, Caitlin K. Rollins, Cynthia M. Ortinau, Lana Vasung, Clemente Velasco-Annis, Abdelhakim Ouaalam, Xin Yang, Dong Ni, Ali Gholipour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Fetal cortical plate segmentation is essential in quantitative analysis of fetal brain maturation and cortical folding. Manual segmentation of the cortical plate, or manual refinement of automatic segmentations is tedious and time-consuming. Automatic segmentation of the cortical plate, on the other hand, is challenged by the relatively low resolution of the reconstructed fetal brain MRI scans compared to the thin structure of the cortical plate, partial voluming, and the wide range of variations in the morphology of the cortical plate as the brain matures during gestation. To reduce the burden of manual refinement of segmentations, we have developed a new and powerful deep learning segmentation method. Our method exploits new deep attentive modules with mixed kernel convolutions within a fully convolutional neural network architecture that utilizes deep supervision and residual connections. We evaluated our method quantitatively based on several performance measures and expert evaluations. Results show that our method outperforms several state-of-the-art deep models for segmentation, as well as a state-of-the-art multi-atlas segmentation technique. We achieved average Dice similarity coefficient of 0.87, average Hausdorff distance of 0.96 mm, and average symmetric surface difference of 0.28 mm on reconstructed fetal brain MRI scans of fetuses scanned in the gestational age range of 16 to 39 weeks (28.6± 5.3). With a computation time of less than 1 minute per fetal brain, our method can facilitate and accelerate large-scale studies on normal and altered fetal brain cortical maturation and folding.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9303459
Pages (from-to)1123-1133
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Cortical plate
  • attention
  • automatic segmentation
  • convolutional neural network
  • deep learning
  • fetal MRI


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