Deep reinforcement learning and its applications in medical imaging and radiation therapy: a survey

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Physics in medicine and biology


Reinforcement learning takes sequential decision-making approaches by learning the policy through trial and error based on interaction with the environment. Combining deep learning and reinforcement learning can empower the agent to learn the interactions and the distribution of rewards from state-action pairs to achieve effective and efficient solutions in more complex and dynamic environments. Deep reinforcement learning (DRL) has demonstrated astonishing performance in surpassing the human-level performance in the game domain and many other simulated environments. This paper introduces the basics of reinforcement learning and reviews various categories of DRL algorithms and DRL models developed for medical image analysis and radiation treatment planning optimization. We will also discuss the current challenges of DRL and approaches proposed to make DRL more generalizable and robust in a real-world environment. DRL algorithms, by fostering the designs of the reward function, agents interactions and environment models, can resolve the challenges from scarce and heterogeneous annotated medical image data, which has been a major obstacle to implementing deep learning models in the clinic. DRL is an active research area with enormous potential to improve deep learning applications in medical imaging and radiation therapy planning.

Medical Subject Headings

Humans; Neural Networks, Computer; Reinforcement, Psychology; Algorithms; Radiography; Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging

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ePub ahead of print