Objective: In both diagnostic and research applications, the interpretation of MR images of the human brain is facilitated when different data sets can be compared by visual inspection of equivalent anatomical planes. Quantitative analysis with predefined atlas templates often requires the initial alignment of atlas and image planes. Unfortunately, the axial planes acquired during separate scanning sessions are often different in their relative position and orientation, and these slices are not coplanar with those in the atlas. We have developed a completely automatic method to register a given volumetric data set with Talairach stereotaxic coordinate system.
Materials and methods: The registration method is based on multi-scale, three-dimensional (3D) cross-correlation with an average (n > 300) MR brain image volume aligned with the Talariach stereotaxic space. Once the data set is re-sampled by the transformation recovered by the algorithm, atlas slices can be directly superimposed on the corresponding slices of the re-sampled volume. the use of such a standardized space also allows the direct comparison, voxel to voxel, of two or more data sets brought into stereotaxic space.
Results: With use of a two-tailed Student t test for paired samples, there was no significant difference in the transformation parameters recovered by the automatic algorithm when compared with two manual landmark-based methods (p > 0.1 for all parameters except y-scale, where p > 0.05). Using root-mean-square difference between normalized voxel intensities as an unbiased measure of registration, we show that when estimated and averaged over 60 volumetric MR images in standard space, this measure was 30% lower for the automatic technique than the manual method, indicating better registrations. Likewise, the automatic method showed a 57% reduction in standard deviation, implying a more stable technique. The algorithm is able to recover the transformation even when data are missing from the top or bottom of the volume.
Conclusion: We present a fully automatic registration method to map volumetric data into stereotaxic space that yields results comparable with those of manually based techniques. The method requires no manual identification of points or contours and therefore does not suffer the drawbacks involved in user intervention such as reproducibility and interobserver variability.