SPECTnet: a deep learning neural network for SPECT image reconstruction
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BACKGROUND: Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) is an important functional tool for clinical diagnosis and scientific research of brain disorders, but suffers from limited spatial resolution and high noise due to hardware design and imaging physics. The present study is to develop a deep learning technique for SPECT image reconstruction that directly converts raw projection data to image with high resolution and low noise, while an efficient training method specifically applicable to medical image reconstruction is presented. METHODS: A custom software was developed to generate 20,000 2-D brain phantoms, of which 16,000 were used to train the neural network, 2,000 for validation, and the final 2,000 for testing. To reduce development difficulty, a two-step training strategy for network design was adopted. We first compressed full-size activity image (128×128 pixels) to a one-D vector consisting of 256×1 pixels, accomplished by an autoencoder (AE) consisting of an encoder and a decoder. The vector is a good representation of the full-size image in a lower-dimensional space and was used as a compact label to develop the second network that maps between the projection-data domain and the vector domain. Since the label had 256 pixels only, the second network was compact and easy to converge. The second network, when successfully developed, was connected to the decoder (a portion of AE) to decompress the vector to a regular 128×128 image. Therefore, a complex network was essentially divided into two compact neural networks trained separately in sequence but eventually connectable. RESULTS: A total of 2,000 test examples, a synthetic brain phantom, and de-identified patient data were used to validate SPECTnet. Results obtained from SPECTnet were compared with those obtained from our clinic OS-EM method. Images with lower noise and more accurate information in the uptake areas were obtained by SPECTnet. CONCLUSIONS: The challenge of developing a complex deep neural network is reduced by training two separate compact connectable networks. The combination of the two networks forms the full version of SPECTnet. Results show that the developed neural network can produce more accurate SPECT images.