ImFEATbox: An MR Image Processing Toolbox for Extracting and Analyzing Features
Annika Liebgott1,2, Sergios Gatidis1, Petros Martirosian1, Fritz Schick1, Bin Yang2, and Thomas Küstner1,2

1Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology, University Hospital of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany, 2Institute of Signal Processing and System Theory, University of Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany


In various image processing applications, finding appropriate mathematical descriptions which reflect or extract characteristics of the underlying content from acquired MR images is an important and crucial step. There exists a variety of features which can be used for MRI, but which ones are the most meaningful depends on the underlying scientific or diagnostic question/application as well as the image itself. To reduce the time spent searching for, implementing and testing features for a specific application, we provide a toolbox of features along with a GUI to easily choose and extract them, which will be made publicly available.


Digital post processing of MR images is an important research topic. While human visual perception is able to recognize characteristic traits of images and differentiate them by distinctive properties like homogeneity, spatial structure or contrast, a machine interprets an image by measures calculated from its numeric representation. Thus, a crucial step in every image processing application is choosing the optimal mathematical representation of the visual properties of an acquired image. These features determine how well any image processing can be conducted or which information can be extracted from the image.

Over the past years, a wide range of features have been proposed to be used in medical image analysis1-3. However, finding the best features for a specific application can be a difficult and time demanding task. Using not enough or the wrong features can cause poor results, using too many on the other hand leads to high computation times and redundant or insignificant information in the extracted features.

ImFEATbox (Image Feature Extraction and Analyzation Toolbox) provides both an assortment of implementations to extract features and a graphical user interface (GUI) to simplify the process of researching, implementing and testing features for the selection of the best representing set for a specific image processing application. The extracted features have been used in context of automated MR image quality assessment4-6 but should be applicable to various image processing tasks not limited to MR images. ImFEATbox is available for both Matlab and Python to enable access for a wide range of users. To the best of our knowledge, no toolbox combining these capabilities is available yet. Other available toolboxes7-10 providing feature extraction algorithms are either limited in terms of feature variety or originally developed as classification frameworks for specific applications and problems and thus lack the general useability in MR image processing we intended with our work.


ImFEATbox can directly handle input in DICOM, NiFTI, MDH, GIPL, MAT, JPEG, PNG or TIFF format. If desired, a mask can be added to the input data to allow performing feature extraction only on a specified region or volume of interest. Before the actual feature extraction step, ImFEATbox is able to perform required preprocessing (e.g. scale conversion, segmentation) on the input images, if desired.

Up to now, ImFEATbox provides a total of 13757 features including global and local features as well as feature descriptors (see Figure 1). The features allow various parametrizations and can be performed for 2D or 3D input data. It is possible to extract either all features calculated by a specific feature implementation or choose only a subset based on certain characteristics, e.g. extract only features based on entropy or correlation. An up-to-date list of implemented features can be found online. Since ImFEATbox is constantly being extended, more features are added in the future.

Besides feature extraction, implementations for different analyzation tasks are provided by ImFEATbox. Evaluation of the selected set of features (e.g. redundancy) and different feature reduction techniques can be performed, if desired. Figure 2 depicts the structure of the toolbox.

Although being primarily developed in Matlab, ImFEATbox includes interfaces to both Matlab and Python. Since Python has lately been gaining more attention in the machine learning community11-13, implementations in Python are being added to eventually provide a native toolbox for Python users.

The included GUI allows users to handle the functions provided by ImFEATbox whithout requiring knowledge about the programming language. Specifically, the user is able to import input images, choose desired combinations of features to be extracted, change various parameters for the extraction process or analyze the extracted set of features conveniently using the GUI.

The Toolbox inluding all algorithms will be made available online under Apache license 2.0 at: https://github.com/annikaliebgott/ImFEATbox


ImFEATbox has been tested with exemplary datasets to illustrate its potential. Figure 3 visualizes the importance of choosing the right features, which is confirmed by the results of a classifier trained with different feature combinations shown in Figure 4. To illustrate how extracted features vary for different images, two exemplary measures calculated from MR images are visualized in Figure 5.


The proposed toolbox provides an assortment of algorithms to perform feature extraction on MR and other medical images as well as several analyzation tools and a GUI to allow easy access to the implemented functionalities. The included algorithms permit a reduction in time needed to research and implement the right features and are applicable to a variety of applications. Thus, ImFEATbox is beneficial to a wide range of researchers working on different problems concerning MR image processing.


No acknowledgement found.


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Figure 1: Overview of the implemented features provided by the toolbox, categorized into groups of global features, local features and feature descriptors.

Figure 2: Structure of the toolbox. Input: MR image (2D or 3D), ROI/VOI mask. Output: feature vector or results of feature vector analysis (e.g. reduced feature vector or redundancy information about selected feature set)

Figure 3: Representation of two image classes in a two dimensinal feature space. In the picture on the left, the two classes represented by feature 1 and feature 2 can be clearly distinguished. In contrast, in the picture on the right, where the classes are represented by feature 1 and feature 3, the samples of both classes overlap and consequently can not be as easily separated (e.g. by a classifier).

Figure 4: Resulting test accuracy of a classifier (Support Vector Machine) for automated MR image quality assessment4-6 trained with 10 sets of different feature combinations, all extracted from the same set of 2038 MR images. The significant differences between accuracies for different feature sets make clear that the importance of selecting the right features is undeniable.

Figure 5: Visualization of two examplary feature implementations appropriate for use with MRI, extracted from different MR images. The bottom row shows the acquired images, in the middle row the gray level histogram of each image is displayed. The top row depicts the results of applying a circular Hough transform to identify roughly circular shaped structures of an image. From both histogram and Hough transform, various measures can be calculated to be used as features (e.g variation or kurtosis of the histograms or mean radius, number of detected circles or mean location of circle centers of the Hough transform).

Proc. Intl. Soc. Mag. Reson. Med. 25 (2017)