About this Research Topic
Machine learning and artificial intelligence are nowadays being used in many industrial and research fields. Artificial neural networks, which are the most commonly employed machine learning techniques, are bio-logically inspired tools used to approximate complex nonlinear functions with a high number of inputs and either real or discrete output values. Artificial neural networks, especially the most recent architectures commonly referred to as “deep learning”, are powerful tools for nonlinear regression and classification problems, and are currently used for a high number of tasks in which a robust automatic performance is needed, e.g. handwriting recognition, face identification, automated driving systems and medical diagnosis. In musculoskeletal research, machine learning has been for example used for the classification of scoliosis and of intervertebral disc degeneration, to estimate muscle loads and to examine gait and motion patterns. In medical image analysis, machine learning is already widely employed for the automated identification of landmarks and biomarkers and for segmentation and registration of image sets. In such applications, the performances of deep learning techniques commonly exceed, in some cases even by a large margin, those of complex state-of-the-art algorithms for image analysis based on traditional techniques.
Machine learning techniques are approaching maturity, and are already providing remarkable performances in several fields including musculoskeletal research. Their usefulness in medical applications is however restricted by the size and quality of the training datasets. Indeed, training data need to be large and should include all the variability of the inputs which may be expected during the later use of the tool, including noise. Building large databases (the so-called “big data”) is a key step to introduce these methods in practi-cal applications. Taking into account the huge economic relevance of such topics, a rush to data gathering by commercial enterprises should be expected, with ethical and legal issues which should not be underesti-mated.
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