Workshop: Medical Imaging meets NeurIPS

Effect of pre-training scale on intra- and inter-domain transfer for natural and X-Ray chest images

Mehdi Cherti · Jenia Jitsev


Recent line of work indicated strong improvement for transfer learning and model generalization when increasing model, data and compute budget scale in the pre-training. To compare effect of scale both in intra- and inter-domain full and few-shot transfer, in this study we combine for the first time large openly available medical X-Ray chest imaging datasets to reach a dataset scale comparable to ImageNet-1k. We then conduct pre-training and transfer to different natural or medical targets while varying network size and source data scale and domain, being either large natural (ImageNet-1k/21k) or large medical chest X-Ray datasets. We observe strong improvement due to larger pre-training scale for intra-domain natural-natural and medical-medical transfer. For inter-domain natural-medical transfer, we find improvements due to larger pre-training scale on larger X-Ray targets in full shot regime, while for smaller targets and for few-shot regime the improvement is not visible. Remarkably, large networks pre-trained on very large natural ImageNet-21k are as good or better than networks pre-trained on largest available medical X-Ray data when performing transfer to large X-Ray targets. We conclude that high quality models for inter-domain transfer can be also obtained by substantially increasing scale of model and generic natural source data, removing necessity for large domain-specific medical source data in the pre-training. (Code is available at:

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