ASL to PET Translation by a Semi-supervised Residual-based Attention-guided Convolutional Neural Network

Sahar Yousefi, Hessam Sokooti, Wouter M. Teeuwisse, Dennis F. R. Heijtel, Aart J. Nederveen, Marius Staring, Matthias J. P. van Osch

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is an imaging method that can assess physiological function rather than structural disturbances by measuring cerebral perfusion or glucose consumption. However, this imaging technique relies on injection of radioactive tracers and is expensive. On the contrary, Arterial Spin Labeling (ASL) MRI is a non-invasive, non-radioactive, and relatively cheap imaging technique for brain hemodynamic measurements, which allows quantification to some extent. In this paper we propose a convolutional neural network (CNN) based model for translating ASL to PET images, which could benefit patients as well as the healthcare system in terms of expenses and adverse side effects. However, acquiring a sufficient number of paired ASL-PET scans for training a CNN is prohibitive for many reasons. To tackle this problem, we present a new semi-supervised multitask CNN which is trained on both paired data, i.e. ASL and PET scans, and unpaired data, i.e. only ASL scans, which alleviates the problem of training a network on limited paired data. Moreover, we present a new residual-based-attention guided mechanism to improve the contextual features during the training process. Also, we show that incorporating T1-weighted scans as an input, due to its high resolution and availability of anatomical information, improves the results. We performed a two-stage evaluation based on quantitative image metrics by conducting a 7-fold cross validation followed by a double-blind observer study. The proposed network achieved structural similarity index measure (SSIM), mean squared error (MSE) and peak signal-to-noise ratio (PSNR) values of $0.85\pm0.08$, $0.01\pm0.01$, and $21.8\pm4.5$ respectively, for translating from 2D ASL and T1-weighted images to PET data. The proposed model is publicly available via https://github.com/yousefis/ASL2PET.

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