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We investigate and extend the ideal observer methodology developed by Smith and Wagner to detection and discrimination tasks related to breast sonography. We provide a numerical approach for evaluating the ideal observer acting on radio frequency (RF) frame data, which involves inversion of large nonstationary covariance matrices, and we describe a power-series approach to computing this inverse. Considering a truncated power series suggests that the RF data be Wiener-filtered before forming the final envelope image. We have compared human performance for Wiener-filtered and conventional B-mode envelope images using psychophysical studies for 5 tasks related to breast cancer classification. We find significant improvements in visual detection and discrimination efficiency in four of these five tasks. We also use the Smith-Wagner approach to distinguish between human and processing inefficiencies, and find that generally the principle limitation comes from the information lost in computing the final envelope image.
Date of Publication: Feb. 2006