Accurate nonlinear mapping between MNI volumetric and FreeSurfer surface coordinate systems

Hum Brain Mapp. 2018 Sep;39(9):3793-3808. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24213. Epub 2018 May 16.


The results of most neuroimaging studies are reported in volumetric (e.g., MNI152) or surface (e.g., fsaverage) coordinate systems. Accurate mappings between volumetric and surface coordinate systems can facilitate many applications, such as projecting fMRI group analyses from MNI152/Colin27 to fsaverage for visualization or projecting resting-state fMRI parcellations from fsaverage to MNI152/Colin27 for volumetric analysis of new data. However, there has been surprisingly little research on this topic. Here, we evaluated three approaches for mapping data between MNI152/Colin27 and fsaverage coordinate systems by simulating the above applications: projection of group-average data from MNI152/Colin27 to fsaverage and projection of fsaverage parcellations to MNI152/Colin27. Two of the approaches are currently widely used. A third approach (registration fusion) was previously proposed, but not widely adopted. Two implementations of the registration fusion (RF) approach were considered, with one implementation utilizing the Advanced Normalization Tools (ANTs). We found that RF-ANTs performed the best for mapping between fsaverage and MNI152/Colin27, even for new subjects registered to MNI152/Colin27 using a different software tool (FSL FNIRT). This suggests that RF-ANTs would be useful even for researchers not using ANTs. Finally, it is worth emphasizing that the most optimal approach for mapping data to a coordinate system (e.g., fsaverage) is to register individual subjects directly to the coordinate system, rather than via another coordinate system. Only in scenarios where the optimal approach is not possible (e.g., mapping previously published results from MNI152 to fsaverage), should the approaches evaluated in this manuscript be considered. In these scenarios, we recommend RF-ANTs (

Keywords: Colin27; MNI152; Talairach; atlas; deformation; fMRI; group analysis; registration; structural MRI.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Neuroimaging / statistics & numerical data
  • Organ Size
  • Software
  • Young Adult