We present a simple, yet effective, auxiliary learning task for the problem of neuron segmentation in electron microscopy volumes. The auxiliary task consists of the prediction of Local Shape Descriptors (LSDs), which we combine with conventional voxel-wise direct neighbor affinities for neuron boundary detection. The shape descriptors are designed to capture local statistics about the neuron to be segmented, such as diameter, elongation, and direction. On a large study comparing several existing methods across various specimen, imaging techniques, and resolutions, we find that auxiliary learning of LSDs consistently increases segmentation accuracy of affinity-based methods over a range of metrics. Furthermore, the addition of LSDs promotes affinity-based segmentation methods to be on par with the current state of the art for neuron segmentation (Flood-Filling Networks, FFN), while being two orders of magnitudes more efficient – a critical requirement for the processing of future petabyte-sized datasets. Implementations of the new auxiliary learning task, network architectures, training, prediction, and evaluation code, as well as the datasets used in this study are publicly available as a benchmark for future method contributions.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience