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Abstract

Segmenting images is a significant challenge that has drawn a lot of attention from different fields of artificial intelligence and has many practical applications. One such challenge addressed in this thesis is the segmentation of electron microscope (EM) imaging of neural tissue. EM microscopy is one of the key tools used to analyze neural tissue and understand the brain, but the huge amounts of data it produces make automated analysis necessary. In addition to the challenges specific to EM data, the common problems encountered in image segmentation must also be addressed. These problems include extracting discriminative features from the data and constructing a statistical model using ground-truth data. Although complex models appear to be more attractive because they allow for more expressiveness, they also lead to a higher computational complexity. On the other hand, simple models come with a lower complexity but less faithfully express the real world. Therefore, one of the most challenging tasks in image segmentation is in constructing models that are expressive enough while remaining tractable. In this work, we propose several automated graph partitioning approaches that address these issues. These methods reduce the computational complexity by operating on supervoxels instead of voxels, incorporating features capable of describing the 3D shape of the target objects and using structured models to account for correlation in output variables. One of the non-trivial issues with such models is that their parameters must be carefully chosen for optimal performance. A popular approach to learning model parameters is a maximum-margin approach called Structured SVM (SSVM) that provides optimality guarantees but also suffers from two main drawbacks. First, SSVM-based approaches are usually limited to linear kernels, since more powerful nonlinear kernels cause the learning to become prohibitively expensive. In this thesis, we introduce an approach to “kernelize” the features so that a linear SSVM framework can leverage the power of nonlinear kernels without incurring their high computational cost. Second, the optimality guarentees are violated for complex models with strong inter-relations between the output variables. We propose a new subgradient-based method that is more robust and leads to improved convergence properties and increased reliability. The different approaches presented in this thesis are applicable to both natural and medical images. They are able to segment mitochondria at a performance level close to that of a human annotator, and outperform state-of-the-art segmentation techniques while still benefiting from a low learning time.

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