Adversarial Confidence Learning for Medical Image Segmentation and Synthesis

Dong Nie, Dinggang Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Generative adversarial networks (GAN) are widely used in medical image analysis tasks, such as medical image segmentation and synthesis. In these works, adversarial learning is directly applied to the original supervised segmentation (synthesis) networks. The usage of adversarial learning is effective in improving visual perception performance since adversarial learning works as realistic regularization for supervised generators. However, the quantitative performance often cannot improve as much as the qualitative performance, and it can even become worse in some cases. In this paper, we explore how we can take better advantage of adversarial learning in supervised segmentation (synthesis) models and propose an adversarial confidence learning framework to better model these problems. We analyze the roles of discriminator in the classic GANs and compare them with those in supervised adversarial systems. Based on this analysis, we propose adversarial confidence learning, i.e., besides the adversarial learning for emphasizing visual perception, we use the confidence information provided by the adversarial network to enhance the design of supervised segmentation (synthesis) network. In particular, we propose using a fully convolutional adversarial network for confidence learning to provide voxel-wise and region-wise confidence information for the segmentation (synthesis) network. With these settings, we propose a difficulty-aware attention mechanism to properly handle hard samples or regions by taking structural information into consideration so that we can better deal with the irregular distribution of medical data. Furthermore, we investigate the loss functions of various GANs and propose using the binary cross entropy loss to train the proposed adversarial system so that we can retain the unlimited modeling capacity of the discriminator. Experimental results on clinical and challenge datasets show that our proposed network can achieve state-of-the-art segmentation (synthesis) accuracy. Further analysis also indicates that adversarial confidence learning can both improve the visual perception performance and the quantitative performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2494-2513
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Computer Vision
Issue number10-11
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Nov 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health under Grant R01 CA206100.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Adversarial confidence learning
  • Image synthesis
  • Medical image analysis
  • Segmentation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Artificial Intelligence


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