Stereotaxic Magnetic Resonance Imaging Brain Atlases for Infants from 3 to 12 Months

Dev Neurosci. 2015;37(6):515-32. doi: 10.1159/000438749. Epub 2015 Oct 7.


Background: Accurate labeling of brain structures within an individual or group is a key issue in neuroimaging. Methods for labeling infant brains have depended on the labels done on adult brains or average magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) templates based on adult brains. However, the features of adult brains differ in several ways from infant brains, so the creation of a labeled stereotaxic atlas based on infants would be helpful. The current work builds on the recent creation of age-appropriate average MRI templates during the first year (3, 4.5, 6, 7.5, 9, and 12 months) by creating anatomical label sets for each template.

Methods: We created stereotaxic atlases for the age-specific average MRI templates. Manual delineation of cortical and subcortical areas was done on the average templates based on infants during the first year. We also applied a procedure for automatic computation of macroanatomical atlases for individual infant participants using two manually segmented adult atlases (Hammers, LONI Probabilistic Brain Atlas-LPBA40). To evaluate our methods, we did manual delineation of several cortical areas on selected individuals from each age. Linear and nonlinear registration of the individual and average template was used to transform the average atlas into the individual participant's space, and the average-transformed atlas was compared to the individual manually delineated brain areas. We also applied these methods to an external data set - not used in the atlas creation - to test generalizability of the atlases.

Results: Age-appropriate manual atlases were the best fit to the individual manually delineated regions, with more error seen at greater age discrepancy. There was a close fit between the manually delineated and the automatically labeled regions for individual participants and for the age-appropriate template-based atlas transformed into participant space. There was close correspondence between automatic labeling of individual brain regions and those from the age-appropriate template. These relationships held even when tested on an external set of images.

Conclusion: We have created age-appropriate labeled templates for use in the study of infant development at 6 ages (3, 4.5, 6, 7.5, 9, and 12 months). Comparison with manual methods was quite good. We developed three stereotaxic atlases (one manual, two automatic) for each infant age, which should allow more fine-grained analysis of brain structure for these populations than was previously possible with existing tools. The template-based atlases constructed in the current study are available online (

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anatomy, Artistic*
  • Atlases as Topic*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Infant
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male