Automated joint skull-stripping and segmentation with Multi-Task U-Net in large mouse brain MRI databases

Riccardo De Feo, Artem Shatillo, Alejandra Sierra, Juan Miguel Valverde, Olli Gröhn, Federico Giove, Jussi Tohka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Skull-stripping and region segmentation are fundamental steps in preclinical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies, and these common procedures are usually performed manually. We present Multi-task U-Net (MU-Net), a convolutional neural network designed to accomplish both tasks simultaneously. MU-Net achieved higher segmentation accuracy than state-of-the-art multi-atlas segmentation methods with an inference time of 0.35 s and no pre-processing requirements. We trained and validated MU-Net on 128 T2-weighted mouse MRI volumes as well as on the publicly available MRM NeAT dataset of 10 MRI volumes. We tested MU-Net with an unusually large dataset combining several independent studies consisting of 1782 mouse brain MRI volumes of both healthy and Huntington animals, and measured average Dice scores of 0.906 (striati), 0.937 (cortex), and 0.978 (brain mask). Further, we explored the effectiveness of our network in the presence of different architectural features, including skip connections and recently proposed framing connections, and the effects of the age range of the training set animals. These high evaluation scores demonstrate that MU-Net is a powerful tool for segmentation and skull-stripping, decreasing inter and intra-rater variability of manual segmentation. The MU-Net code and the trained model are publicly available at

Original languageEnglish
Article number117734
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2021


  • Brain
  • Deep learning
  • Mice
  • MRI
  • Segmentation
  • U-Net

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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