Impact of deep learning-based image super-resolution on binary signal detection

Deep learning-based image super-resolution (DL-SR) has shown great promise in medical imaging applications. To date, most of the proposed methods for DL-SR have only been assessed by use of traditional measures of image quality (IQ) that are commonly employed in the field of computer vision. However, the impact of these methods on objective measures of image quality that are relevant to medical imaging tasks remains largely unexplored. In this study, we investigate the impact of DL-SR methods on binary signal detection performance.


Two popular DL-SR methods, the super-resolution convolutional neural network (SRCNN) and the super-resolution generative adversarial network (SRGAN), were trained by use of simulated medical image data. Binary signal-known-exactly with background-known-statistically (SKE/BKS) and signal-known-statistically with background-known-statistically (SKS/BKS) detection tasks were formulated. Numerical observers, which included a neural network-approximated ideal observer and common linear numerical observers, were employed to assess the impact of DL-SR on task performance. The impact of the complexity of the DL-SR network architectures on task-performance was quantified. In addition, the utility of DL-SR for improving the task-performance of sub-optimal observers was investigated.


Our numerical experiments confirmed that, as expected, DL-SR could improve traditional measures of IQ. However, for many of the study designs considered, the DL-SR methods provided little or no improvement in task performance and could even degrade it. It was observed that DL-SR could improve the task-performance of sub-optimal observers under certain conditions. The presented study highlights the urgent need for the objective assessment of DL-SR methods and suggests avenues for improving their efficacy in medical imaging applications.

RHO templates computed on (a) HR and LR images, and (b–f) images from SRCNN and SRGAN resulting from sweeping the regularization parameter λ

Related publications

1. Zhang, Xiaohui, Varun A. Kelkar, Jason L. Granstedt, Hua Li and M. Anastasio. “Impact of deep learning-based image super-resolution on binary signal detection.” ArXiv abs/2107.02338 (2021): n. pag.