Asymmetric bias in user guided segmentations of brain structures

Eric Maltbie, Kshamta Bhatt, Beatriz Paniagua, Rachel G. Smith, Michael M. Graves, Matthew W. Mosconi, Sarah Peterson, Scott White, Joseph Blocher, Mohammed El-Sayed, Heather C. Hazlett, Martin A. Styner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Brain morphometric studies often incorporate comparative hemispheric asymmetry analyses of segmented brain structures. In this work, we present evidence that common user guided structural segmentation techniques exhibit strong left-right asymmetric biases and thus fundamentally influence any left-right asymmetry analyses. In this study, MRI scans from ten pediatric subjects were employed for studying segmentations of amygdala, globus pallidus, putamen, caudate, and lateral ventricle. Additionally, two pediatric and three adult scans were used for studying hippocampus segmentation. Segmentations of the sub-cortical structures were performed by skilled raters using standard manual and semi-automated methods. The left-right mirrored versions of each image were included in the data and segmented in a random order to assess potential left-right asymmetric bias. Using shape analysis we further assessed whether the asymmetric bias is consistent across subjects and raters with the focus on the hippocampus. The user guided segmentation techniques on the sub-cortical structures exhibited left-right asymmetric volume bias with the hippocampus displaying the most significant asymmetry values (p << 0.01). The hippocampal shape analysis revealed the bias to be strongest on the lateral side of the body and medial side of the head and tail. The origin of this asymmetric bias is considered to be based in laterality of visual perception; therefore segmentations with any degree of user interaction contain an asymmetric bias. The aim of our study is to raise awareness in the neuroimaging community regarding the presence of the asymmetric bias and its influence on any left-right hemispheric analyses. We also recommend reexamining previous research results in the light of this new finding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1315-1323
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 16 2012


  • Asymmetry analysis
  • Manual segmentation
  • Rater bias
  • Subcortical structures neuroimaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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