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20 March 2007 Perception of dim targets on dark backgrounds in MRI
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Some diagnostic tasks in MRI involve determining the presence of a faint feature (target) relative to a dark background. In MR images produced by taking pixel magnitudes it is well known that the contrast between faint features and dark backgrounds is reduced due to the Rician noise distribution. In an attempt to enhance detection we implemented three different MRI reconstruction algorithms: the normal magnitude, phase-corrected real, and a wavelet thresholding algorithm designed particularly for MRI noise suppression and contrast enhancement. To compare these reconstructions, we had volunteers perform a two-alternative forced choice (2AFC) signal detection task. The stimuli were produced from high-field head MRI images with synthetic thermal noise added to ensure realistic backgrounds. Circular targets were located in regions of the image that were dark, but next to bright anatomy. Images were processed using one of the three reconstruction techniques. In addition we compared a channelized Hotelling observer (CHO) to the human observers in this task. We measured the percentage correct in both the human and model observer experiments. Our results showed better performance with the use of magnitude or phase-corrected real images compared to the use of the wavelet algorithm. In particular, artifacts induced by the wavelet algorithm seem to distract some users and produce significant inter-subject variability. This contradicts predictions based only on SNR. The CHO matched the mean human results quite closely, demonstrating that this model observer may be used to simulate human response in MRI target detection tasks.
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M. Dylan Tisdall and M. Stella Atkins "Perception of dim targets on dark backgrounds in MRI", Proc. SPIE 6515, Medical Imaging 2007: Image Perception, Observer Performance, and Technology Assessment, 651513 (20 March 2007);

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