Split-Attention U-Net: A fully convolutional network for robust multi-label segmentation from brain MRI
Multi-label brain segmentation from brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides valuable structural information for most neurological analyses. Due to the complexity of the brain segmentation algorithm, it could delay the delivery of neuroimaging findings. Therefore, we introduce Split-Attention U-Net (SAU-Net), a convolutional neural network with skip pathways and a split-attention module that segments brain MRI scans. The proposed architecture employs split-attention blocks, skip pathways with pyramid levels, and evolving normalization layers. For efficient training, we performed pre-training and fine-tuning with the original and manually modified FreeSurfer labels, respectively. This learning strategy enables involvement of heterogeneous neuroimaging data in the training without the need for many manual annotations. Using nine evaluation datasets, we demonstrated that SAU-Net achieved better segmentation accuracy with better reliability that surpasses those of state-of-the-art methods. We believe that SAU-Net has excellent potential due to its robustness to neuroanatomical variability that would enable almost instantaneous access to accurate neuroimaging biomarkers and its swift processing runtime compared to other methods investigated.