Morph volumetric source estimate

This example demonstrates how to morph an individual subject’s mne.VolSourceEstimate to a common reference space. We achieve this using mne.SourceMorph. Pre-computed data will be morphed based on an affine transformation and a nonlinear registration method known as Symmetric Diffeomorphic Registration (SDR) by Avants et al. 1.

Transformation is estimated from the subject’s anatomical T1 weighted MRI (brain) to FreeSurfer’s ‘fsaverage’ T1 weighted MRI (brain).

Afterwards the transformation will be applied to the volumetric source estimate. The result will be plotted, showing the fsaverage T1 weighted anatomical MRI, overlaid with the morphed volumetric source estimate.



Avants, B. B., Epstein, C. L., Grossman, M., & Gee, J. C. (2009). Symmetric Diffeomorphic Image Registration with Cross- Correlation: Evaluating Automated Labeling of Elderly and Neurodegenerative Brain, 12(1), 26-41.

# Author: Tommy Clausner <>
# License: BSD (3-clause)
import os

import nibabel as nib
import mne
from mne.datasets import sample
from mne.minimum_norm import apply_inverse, read_inverse_operator
from nilearn.plotting import plot_glass_brain


Setup paths

sample_dir_raw = sample.data_path()
sample_dir = os.path.join(sample_dir_raw, 'MEG', 'sample')
subjects_dir = os.path.join(sample_dir_raw, 'subjects')

fname_evoked = os.path.join(sample_dir, 'sample_audvis-ave.fif')
fname_inv = os.path.join(sample_dir, 'sample_audvis-meg-vol-7-meg-inv.fif')

fname_t1_fsaverage = os.path.join(subjects_dir, 'fsaverage', 'mri',

Compute example data. For reference see Compute MNE-dSPM inverse solution on evoked data in volume source space

Load data:

evoked = mne.read_evokeds(fname_evoked, condition=0, baseline=(None, 0))
inverse_operator = read_inverse_operator(fname_inv)

# Apply inverse operator
stc = apply_inverse(evoked, inverse_operator, 1.0 / 3.0 ** 2, "dSPM")

# To save time
stc.crop(0.09, 0.09)


Reading /home/circleci/mne_data/MNE-sample-data/MEG/sample/sample_audvis-ave.fif ...
    Read a total of 4 projection items:
        PCA-v1 (1 x 102) active
        PCA-v2 (1 x 102) active
        PCA-v3 (1 x 102) active
        Average EEG reference (1 x 60) active
    Found the data of interest:
        t =    -199.80 ...     499.49 ms (Left Auditory)
        0 CTF compensation matrices available
        nave = 55 - aspect type = 100
Projections have already been applied. Setting proj attribute to True.
Applying baseline correction (mode: mean)
Reading inverse operator decomposition from /home/circleci/mne_data/MNE-sample-data/MEG/sample/sample_audvis-meg-vol-7-meg-inv.fif...
    Reading inverse operator info...
    Reading inverse operator decomposition...
    305 x 305 full covariance (kind = 1) found.
    Read a total of 4 projection items:
        PCA-v1 (1 x 102) active
        PCA-v2 (1 x 102) active
        PCA-v3 (1 x 102) active
        Average EEG reference (1 x 60) active
    Noise covariance matrix read.
    11271 x 11271 diagonal covariance (kind = 2) found.
    Source covariance matrix read.
    Did not find the desired covariance matrix (kind = 6)
    11271 x 11271 diagonal covariance (kind = 5) found.
    Depth priors read.
    Did not find the desired covariance matrix (kind = 3)
    Reading a source space...
    1 source spaces read
    Read a total of 4 projection items:
        PCA-v1 (1 x 102) active
        PCA-v2 (1 x 102) active
        PCA-v3 (1 x 102) active
        Average EEG reference (1 x 60) active
    Source spaces transformed to the inverse solution coordinate frame
Preparing the inverse operator for use...
    Scaled noise and source covariance from nave = 1 to nave = 55
    Created the regularized inverter
    Created an SSP operator (subspace dimension = 3)
    Created the whitener using a noise covariance matrix with rank 302 (3 small eigenvalues omitted)
    Computing noise-normalization factors (dSPM)...
Applying inverse operator to "Left Auditory"...
    Picked 305 channels from the data
    Computing inverse...
    Eigenleads need to be weighted ...
    Computing residual...
    Explained  59.7% variance
    Combining the current components...

Get a SourceMorph object for VolSourceEstimate

subject_from can typically be inferred from src, and subject_to is set to ‘fsaverage’ by default. subjects_dir can be None when set in the environment. In that case SourceMorph can be initialized taking src as only argument. See mne.SourceMorph for more details.

The default parameter setting for spacing will cause the reference volumes to be resliced before computing the transform. A value of ‘5’ would cause the function to reslice to an isotropic voxel size of 5 mm. The higher this value the less accurate but faster the computation will be.

A standard usage for volumetric data reads:

morph = mne.compute_source_morph(inverse_operator['src'],
                                 subject_from='sample', subject_to='fsaverage',

Apply morph to VolSourceEstimate

The morph can be applied to the source estimate data, by giving it as the first argument to the morph.apply() method:

Convert morphed VolSourceEstimate into NIfTI

We can convert our morphed source estimate into a NIfTI volume using morph.apply(..., output='nifti1').

# Create mri-resolution volume of results
img_fsaverage = morph.apply(stc, mri_resolution=2, output='nifti1')

Plot results

# Load fsaverage anatomical image
t1_fsaverage = nib.load(fname_t1_fsaverage)

# Plot glass brain (change to plot_anat to display an overlaid anatomical T1)
display = plot_glass_brain(t1_fsaverage,
                           title='subject results to fsaverage',

# Add functional data as overlay
display.add_overlay(img_fsaverage, alpha=0.75)

Reading and writing SourceMorph from and to disk

An instance of SourceMorph can be saved, by calling

This methods allows for specification of a filename under which the morph will be save in “.h5” format. If no file extension is provided, “-morph.h5” will be appended to the respective defined filename:


Reading a saved source morph can be achieved by using mne.read_source_morph():

>>> morph = mne.read_source_morph('my-file-name-morph.h5')

Once the environment is set up correctly, no information such as subject_from or subjects_dir must be provided, since it can be inferred from the data and used morph to ‘fsaverage’ by default. SourceMorph can further be used without creating an instance and assigning it to a variable. Instead mne.compute_source_morph() and mne.SourceMorph.apply() can be easily chained into a handy one-liner. Taking this together the shortest possible way to morph data directly would be:

Total running time of the script: ( 0 minutes 30.217 seconds)

Estimated memory usage: 705 MB

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