Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Computer Science and Engineering

Major Professor

Lawrence O. Hall, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Dmitry B. Goldgof, Ph.D.


brain imaging


This dissertation presents a knowledge-guided expert system that is capable of applying routinesfor multispectral analysis, (un)supervised clustering, and basic image processing to automatically detect and segment brain tissue abnormalities, and then label glioblastoma-multiforme brain tumors in magnetic resonance volumes of the human brain. The magnetic resonance images used here consist of three feature images (T1-weighted, proton density, T2-weighted) and the system is designed to be independent of a particular scanning protocol. Separate, but contiguous 2D slices in the transaxial plane form a brain volume. This allows complete tumor volumes to be measured and if repeat scans are taken over time, the system may be used to monitor tumor response to past treatments and aid in the planning of future treatment. Furthermore, once processing begins, the system is completely unsupervised, thus avoiding the problems of human variability found in supervised segmentation efforts.

Each slice is initially segmented by an unsupervised fuzzy c-means algorithm. The segmented image, along with its respective cluster centers, is then analyzed by a rule-based expert system which iteratively locates tissues of interest based on the hierarchy of cluster centers in feature space. Model-based recognition techniques analyze tissues of interest by searching for expected characteristics and comparing those found with previously defined qualitative models. Normal/abnormal classification is performed through a default reasoning method: if a significant model deviation is found, the slice is considered abnormal. Otherwise, the slice is considered normal. Tumor segmentation in abnormal slices begins with multispectral histogram analysis and thresholding to separate suspected tumor from the rest of the intra-cranial region. The tumor is then refined with a variant of seed growing, followed by spatial component analysis and a final thresholding step to remove non-tumor pixels.

The knowledge used in this system was extracted from general principles of magnetic resonance imaging, the distributions of individual voxels and cluster centers in feature space, and anatomical information. Knowledge is used both for single slice processing and information propagation between slices. A standard rule-based expert system shell (CLIPS) was modified to include the multispectral analysis, clustering, and image processing tools.

A total of sixty-three volume data sets from eight patients and seventeen volunteers (four with and thirteen without gadolinium enhancement) were acquired from a single magnetic resonance imaging system with slightly varying scanning protocols were available for processing. All volumes were processed for normal/abnormal classification. Tumor segmentation was performed on the abnormal slices and the results were compared with a radiologist-labeled ��ground truth' tumor volume and tumor segmentations created by applying supervised k-nearest neighbors, a partially supervised variant of the fuzzy c-means clustering algorithm, and a commercially available seed growing package. The results of the developed automatic system generally correspond well to ground truth, both on a per slice basis and more importantly in tracking total tumor volume during treatment over time.