Style Transfer Using Generative Adversarial Networks for Multi-Site MRI Harmonization
Large data initiatives and high-powered brain imaging analyses require the pooling of MR images acquired across multiple scanners, often using different protocols. Prospective cross-site harmonization often involves the use of a phantom or traveling subjects. However, as more datasets are becoming publicly available, there is a growing need for retrospective harmonization, pooling data from sites not originally coordinated together. Several retrospective harmonization techniques have shown
... se in removing cross-site image variation. However, most unsupervised methods cannot distinguish between image-acquisition based variability and cross-site population variability, so they require that datasets contain subjects or patient groups with similar clinical or demographic information. To overcome this limitation, we consider cross-site MRI image harmonization as a style transfer problem rather than a domain transfer problem. Using a fully unsupervised deep-learning framework based on a generative adversarial network (GAN), we show that MR images can be harmonized by inserting the style information encoded from a reference image directly, without knowing their site/scanner labels a priori. We trained our model using data from five large-scale multi-site datasets with varied demographics. Results demonstrated that our style-encoding model can harmonize MR images, and match intensity profiles, successfully, without relying on traveling subjects. This model also avoids the need to control for clinical, diagnostic, or demographic information. Moreover, we further demonstrated that if we included diverse enough images into the training set, our method successfully harmonized MR images collected from unseen scanners and protocols, suggesting a promising novel tool for ongoing collaborative studies.