Deep Neural Networks Segment Neuronal Membranes in Electron Microscopy Images

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 25 (NIPS 2012)

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Dan Ciresan, Alessandro Giusti, Luca Gambardella, Jürgen Schmidhuber


We address a central problem of neuroanatomy, namely, the automatic segmentation of neuronal structures depicted in stacks of electron microscopy (EM) images. This is necessary to efficiently map 3D brain structure and connectivity. To segment {\em biological} neuron membranes, we use a special type of deep {\em artificial} neural network as a pixel classifier. The label of each pixel (membrane or non-membrane) is predicted from raw pixel values in a square window centered on it. The input layer maps each window pixel to a neuron. It is followed by a succession of convolutional and max-pooling layers which preserve 2D information and extract features with increasing levels of abstraction. The output layer produces a calibrated probability for each class. The classifier is trained by plain gradient descent on a $512 \times 512 \times 30$ stack with known ground truth, and tested on a stack of the same size (ground truth unknown to the authors) by the organizers of the ISBI 2012 EM Segmentation Challenge. Even without problem-specific post-processing, our approach outperforms competing techniques by a large margin in all three considered metrics, i.e. \emph{rand error}, \emph{warping error} and \emph{pixel error}. For pixel error, our approach is the only one outperforming a second human observer.