Under-exploration of Three-Dimensional Images Leads to Search Errors for Small Salient Targets


Advances in 3D imaging technology are transforming how radiologists search for cancer1,2 and how security officers scrutinize baggage for dangerous objects.3 These new 3D technologies often improve search over 2D images4,5 but vastly increase the image data. Here, we investigate 3D search for targets of various sizes in filtered noise and digital breast phantoms. For a Bayesian ideal observer optimally processing the filtered noise and a convolutional neural network processing the digital breast phantoms, search with 3D image stacks increases target information and improves accuracy over search with 2D images. In contrast, 3D search by humans leads to high miss rates for small targets easily detected in 2D search, but not for larger targets more visible in the visual periphery. Analyses of human eye movements, perceptual judgments, and a computational model with a foveated visual system suggest that human errors can be explained by interaction among a target’s peripheral visibility, eye movement under-exploration of the 3D images, and a perceived overestimation of the explored area. Instructing observers to extend the search reduces 75% of the small target misses without increasing false positives. Results with twelve radiologists confirm that even medical professionals reading realistic breast phantoms have high miss rates for small targets in 3D search. Thus, under-exploration represents a fundamental limitation to the efficacy with which humans search in 3D image stacks and miss targets with these prevalent image technologies.

ICB Affiliated Authors

Miguel A. Lago, Aditya Jonnalagadda, Craig K. Abbey, Bruno B. Barufaldi, Predrag R. Bakic, Andrew D.A. Maidment, Winifred K. Leung, Susan P. Weinstein, Brian S. Englander and Miguel P. Eckstein.
Peer-Reviewed Article
Current Biology