A multiscale and multiblock fuzzy C-means classification method for brain MR images

Xiaofeng Yang, Baowei Fei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Purpose: Classification of magnetic resonance (MR) images has many clinical and research applications. Because of multiple factors such as noise, intensity inhomogeneity, and partial volume effects, MR image classification can be challenging. Noise in MRI can cause the classified regions to become disconnected. Partial volume effects make the assignment of a single class to one region difficult. Because of intensity inhomogeneity, the intensity of the same tissue can vary with respect to the location of the tissue within the same image. The conventional hard classification method restricts each pixel exclusively to one class and often results in crisp results. Fuzzy C-mean (FCM) classification or soft segmentation has been extensively applied to MR images, in which pixels are partially classified into multiple classes using varying memberships to the classes. Standard FCM, however, is sensitive to noise and cannot effectively compensate for intensity inhomogeneities. This paper presents a method to obtain accurate MR brain classification using a modified multiscale and multiblock FCM. Methods: An automatic, multiscale and multiblock fuzzy C-means (MsbFCM) classification method with MR intensity correction is presented in this paper. We use a bilateral filter to process MR images and to build a multiscale image series by increasing the standard deviation of spatial function and by reducing the standard deviation of range function. At each scale, we separate the image into multiple blocks and for every block a multiscale fuzzy C-means classification method is applied along the scales from the coarse to fine levels in order to overcome the effect of intensity inhomogeneity. The result from a coarse scale supervises the classification in the next fine scale. The classification method is tested with noisy MR images with intensity inhomogeneity. Results: Our method was compared with the conventional FCM, a modified FCM (MFCM) and multiscale FCM (MsFCM) method. Validation studies were performed on synthesized images with various contrasts, on the simulated brain MR database, and on real MR images. Our MsbFCM method consistently performed better than the conventional FCM, MFCM, and MsFCM methods. The MsbFCM method achieved an overlap ratio of 91 or higher. Experimental results using real MR images demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed method. Our MsbFCM classification method is accurate and robust for various MR images. Conclusions: As our classification method did not assume a Gaussian distribution of tissue intensity, it could be used on other image data for tissue classification and quantification. The automatic classification method can provide a useful quantification tool in neuroimaging and other applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2879-2891
Number of pages13
JournalMedical physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • bilateral filter
  • fuzzy C-means (FCM)
  • image classification
  • magnetic resonance images (MRI)
  • multiblock
  • multiscale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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