Reconstruction of neural circuits from volume electron microscopy data requires the tracing of cells in their entirety, including all their neurites. Automated approaches have been developed for tracing, but their error rates are too high to generate reliable circuit diagrams without extensive human proofreading. We present flood-filling networks, a method for automated segmentation that, similar to most previous efforts, uses convolutional neural networks, but contains in addition a recurrent pathway that allows the iterative optimization and extension of individual neuronal processes. We used flood-filling networks to trace neurons in a dataset obtained by serial block-face electron microscopy of a zebra finch brain. Using our method, we achieved a mean error-free neurite path length of 1.1 mm, and we observed only four mergers in a test set with a path length of 97 mm. The performance of flood-filling networks was an order of magnitude better than that of previous approaches applied to this dataset, although with substantially increased computational costs.
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We thank T.L. Dean and B. Agüera y Arcas for useful discussions and support. We also thank M.S. Fee and J. Shlens for comments on the manuscript.
J.K. holds shares of Ariadne service GmbH. M.J., P.H.L., A.P., T.B., L.L., J.M.-S., M.T., and V.J. are employees of Google LLC, which sells cloud computing services.
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Integrated supplementary information
Manual annotations (left) and convolutional network inference (right) of a subset of the labeled voxel classes: blood vessel (red), myelin (blue), and cell body (green). False positive identifications of cell body voxels are visible in the automated inference (inside the myelinated area). Scale bar is 2 microns.
Overall computational architecture of the Flood-filling Network. Each of the eight convolutional modules are identical and implement the operations shown in the top inset box. The predicted object map (POM) is shown as the yellow mask channel, and provides recurrent feedback to the FFN.
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Januszewski, M., Kornfeld, J., Li, P.H. et al. High-precision automated reconstruction of neurons with flood-filling networks. Nat Methods 15, 605–610 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41592-018-0049-4
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