The ideal observer (IO) sets an upper performance limit among all observers and has been advocated for assessing and optimizing imaging systems. For general joint detection and estimation (detection-estimation) tasks, estimation ROC (EROC) analysis has been established for evaluating the performance of observers. However, in general, it is difficult to accurately approximate the IO that maximizes the area under the EROC curve. In this study, a hybrid method that employs machine learning is proposed to accomplish this. Specifically, a hybrid approach is developed that combines a multi-task convolutional neural network and a Markov-Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) method in order to approximate the IO for detection-estimation tasks. Unlike traditional MCMC methods, the hybrid method is not limited to use of specific utility functions. In addition, a purely supervised learning-based sub-ideal observer is proposed. Computer-simulation studies are conducted to validate the proposed method, which include signal-known-statistically/background-known-exactly and signal-known-statistically/background-known-statistically tasks. The EROC curves produced by the proposed method are compared to those produced by the MCMC approach or analytical computation when feasible. The proposed method provides a new approach for approximating the IO and may advance the application of EROC analysis for optimizing imaging systems.
- Numerical observers
- deep learning
- estimation receiver operating characteristic curve
- ideal observer
- joint signal detection and estimation tasks
- task-based image quality assessment