We propose multi-atlas learner fusion (MLF), a framework for rapidly and accurately replicating the highly accurate, yet computationally expensive, multi-atlas segmentation framework based on fusing local learners. In the largest whole-brain multi-atlas study yet reported, multi-atlas segmentations are estimated for a training set of 3464 MR brain images. Using these multi-atlas estimates we (1) estimate a low-dimensional representation for selecting locally appropriate example images, and (2) build AdaBoost learners that map a weak initial segmentation to the multi-atlas segmentation result. Thus, to segment a new target image we project the image into the low-dimensional space, construct a weak initial segmentation, and fuse the trained, locally selected, learners. The MLF framework cuts the runtime on a modern computer from 36 h down to 3-8 min - a 270× speedup - by completely bypassing the need for deformable atlas-target registrations. Additionally, we (1) describe a technique for optimizing the weak initial segmentation and the AdaBoost learning parameters, (2) quantify the ability to replicate the multi-atlas result with mean accuracies approaching the multi-atlas intra-subject reproducibility on a testing set of 380 images, (3) demonstrate significant increases in the reproducibility of intra-subject segmentations when compared to a state-of-the-art multi-atlas framework on a separate reproducibility dataset, (4) show that under the MLF framework the large-scale data model significantly improve the segmentation over the small-scale model under the MLF framework, and (5) indicate that the MLF framework has comparable performance as state-of-the-art multi-atlas segmentation algorithms without using non-local information.
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