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Neurite Tracing and Analysis in Fluorescence Microscopy Images Using Improved Ridge Detection and Graph Searching

E. Meijering, M. Jacob, J.-C.F. Sarria, P. Steiner, H. Hirling, M. Unser

Fall Meeting of the Dutch Society for Pattern Recognition and Image Processing (NVPHBV'03), Best, Kingdom of the Netherlands, November 27, 2003.



To assist neurobiologists investigating the different proteins and mechanisms involved in neurite outgrowth and differentiation, we have developed an interactive technique for the tracing and quantification of elongated image structures. It is based on an improved steerable filter for estimating local ridge strength and orientation and uses a graph-searching algorithm with a novel cost function exploiting these image features to obtain globally optimal tracings between user-defined control points. The technique was validated by comparing its performance to that of the currently used approach of fully manual delineation. Four observers repeatedly traced selected neurites in fluorescence microscopy images of cells in culture using both methods. The results indicated that the developed technique yields comparable accuracy in measuring neurite length, significantly improved accuracy in neurite centerline extraction, and significantly improved reproducibility and reduced user interaction.


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