Mindboggle’s open source brain morphometry platform takes in preprocessed T1-weighted MRI data, and outputs volume, surface, and tabular data containing label, feature, and shape information for further analysis. Mindboggle can be run on the command line as “mindboggle” and also exists as a cross-platform Docker container for convenience and reproducibility of results. The software runs on Linux and is written in Python 3 and Python-wrapped C++ code called within a Nipype pipeline framework. We have tested the software most extensively with Python 3.5.1 on Ubuntu Linux 14.04.

Date:April 14, 2017


Referencing Mindboggle

A Klein, SS Ghosh, FS Bao, J Giard, Y Hame, E Stavsky, N Lee, B Rossa, M Reuter, EC Neto, A Keshavan. 2017. Mindboggling morphometry of human brains. PLoS Computational Biology 13(3): e1005350. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005350

Support, bugs, and help

If you have any questions about Mindboggle, please post to NeuroStars with the tag “mindboggle”; if you have found a bug, big or small, please submit an issue on GitHub.

To learn about command-line options after installing Mindboggle, type the following in a terminal window:

mindboggle -h

Installing Mindboggle

We recommend installing Mindboggle and its dependencies as a cross-platform Docker container for greater convenience and reproducibility of results. (Alternatively, Mindboggle can be installed from scratch on a Linux machine using an installation script).

  1. Install and run Docker on your (macOS, Linux, or Windows) host machine:

  2. Pull the Mindboggle Docker app (copy into a terminal window):

    docker pull bids/mindboggle

3. Set the path on your host machine for the Docker container to access Mindboggle input and output directories (“/” in this example), and enter the container’s bash shell (“\” splits command to next line):

docker run --rm -ti -v $PATH_ON_HOST:/root/data \
    --entrypoint /bin/bash bids/mindboggle;

Before running Mindboggle

Mindboggle takes as its input preprocessed brain MR image data. To get up and running with the Running Mindboggle examples below, download and unzip the directory (455 MB), which contains some example preprocessed data, and skip this section until you wish to process your own data. Or download and unzip the directory (29 MB), which contains some example MRI data, and run the FreeSurfer and ANTs commands below to prepare data for Mindboggle. More example input and output data can be found on Mindboggle’s examples site.

Mindboggle currently takes output from FreeSurfer (v6 or higher recommended) and optionally from ANTs (v2.1.0rc3 or higher recommended; v2.1.0 is included in the Docker app).

FreeSurfer generates labeled cortical surfaces, and labeled cortical and noncortical volumes. Run recon-all on a T1-weighted $IMAGE file (e.g., /data/example_mri_data/T1.nii.gz; you can optionally include a T2-weighted image as well by adding “-i /data/example_mri_data/T2.nii.gz”) and set the output $SUBJECT name (e.g., subject1):

recon-all -all -i $IMAGE -s $SUBJECT

Version 6 is recommended because by default it uses Mindboggle’s DKT-100 surface-based atlas (with the DKT31 labeling protocol) to generate labels on the cortical surfaces and corresponding labels in the cortical and non-cortical volumes (v5.3 generates these surface labels by default; older versions require “-gcs DKTatlas40.gcs” to generate these surface labels).

ANTs provides brain volume extraction, segmentation, and registration-based labeling. To generate the ANTs transforms and segmentation files used by Mindboggle, run the script on the same $IMAGE file, set an output $PREFIX (“/data/subject1/ants” for outputs including “/data/subject1/antsBrainSegmentation.nii.gz”), and a $TEMPLATE path to the OASIS-30_Atropos_template directory (“\” splits command to next line): -d 3 -a $IMAGE -o $PREFIX \
  -e $TEMPLATE/T_template0.nii.gz \
  -t $TEMPLATE/T_template0_BrainCerebellum.nii.gz \
  -m $TEMPLATE/T_template0_BrainCerebellumProbabilityMask.nii.gz \
  -f $TEMPLATE/T_template0_BrainCerebellumExtractionMask.nii.gz \
  -p $TEMPLATE/Priors2/priors%d.nii.gz

Running Mindboggle

See Before running Mindboggle above for instructions on how to prepare data for processing by Mindboggle, or to obtain example data to get started. Also, if using the Mindboggle Docker container, make sure to enter the Docker container (Step 3 of Installing Mindboggle) before proceeding.

Set paths:

For brevity in the commands below, we set the following path variables to point to the example data and to Mindboggle working and output directories. Be sure to modify the HOST path (“Users/arno” is specific to the user arno on a Mac) and copy each line into a terminal window:


Help and options:

For help with the Mindboggle command and to learn about all of its options, type the following in a terminal window:

mindboggle -h

Example 1: The following bare-bones command runs Mindboggle on data processed by FreeSurfer but not ANTs (“\” splits command to next line):

    --working $MINDBOGGLING --out $MINDBOGGLED

Example 2: Same as #1, but takes advantage of ANTs output:

    --working $MINDBOGGLING --out $MINDBOGGLED \
    --ants $ANTS_SUBJECT/antsBrainSegmentation.nii.gz

Example 3: To generate only volume (and not surface) labels and shape measures from FreeSurfer and ANTs data, using 8 processors:

mindboggle $FREESURFER_SUBJECT --no_surfaces --cpus 8 \
    --working $MINDBOGGLING --out $MINDBOGGLED \
    --ants $ANTS_SUBJECT/antsBrainSegmentation.nii.gz

Mindboggle processing steps

The following steps are performed by Mindboggle (with links to code on GitHub):

  1. Create hybrid gray/white segmentation from FreeSurfer and ANTs output (combine_2labels_in_2volumes).

  2. Fill hybrid segmentation with FreeSurfer- or ANTs-registered labels.

  3. Compute volume shape measures for each labeled region:

  4. Compute surface shape measures for every cortical mesh vertex:

  5. Extract cortical surface features:

  6. For each cortical surface label/sulcus, compute:

  7. Compute statistics (stats_per_label in for each shape measure in #4 for each label/feature:

    • median
    • median absolute deviation
    • mean
    • standard deviation
    • skew
    • kurtosis
    • lower quartile
    • upper quartile

Mindboggle output

Example output data can be found on Mindboggle’s examples site on By default, output files are saved in $HOME/mindboggled/SUBJECT, where $HOME is the home directory and SUBJECT is a name representing the person’s brain that has been scanned. Volume files are in NIfTI format, surface meshes in VTK format, and tables are comma-delimited. Each file contains integers that correspond to anatomical labels or features (0-24 for sulci). All output data are in the original subject’s space. The following include outputs from most, but not all, optional arguments.

Folder Contents Format
labels/ number-labeled surfaces and volumes .vtk, .nii.gz
features/ surfaces with features: sulci, fundi .vtk
shapes/ surfaces with shape measures (per vertex) .vtk
tables/ tables of shape measures (per label/feature/vertex) .csv

mindboggled / $SUBJECT /

labels /

freesurfer_wmparc_labels_in_hybrid_graywhite.nii.gz: hybrid segmentation filled with FS labels

ants_labels_in_hybrid_graywhite.nii.gz: hybrid segmentation filled with ANTs + FS cerebellar labels

[left,right]_cortical_surface / freesurfer_cortex_labels.vtk: DKT cortical surface labels

features / [left,right]_cortical_surface /

folds.vtk: (unidentified) depth-based folds

sulci.vtk: sulci defined by DKT label pairs in depth-based folds

fundus_per_sulcus.vtk: fundus curve per sulcus – UNDER EVALUATION –

cortex_in_MNI152_space.vtk: cortical surfaces aligned to an MNI152 template

shapes / [left,right]_cortical_surface /

area.vtk: per-vertex surface area

mean_curvature.vtk: per-vertex mean curvature

geodesic_depth.vtk: per-vertex geodesic depth

travel_depth.vtk: per-vertex travel depth

freesurfer_curvature.vtk: FS curvature files converted to VTK

freesurfer_sulc.vtk: FS sulc (convexity) files converted to VTK

freesurfer_thickness.vtk: FS thickness files converted to VTK

tables /

volume_per_freesurfer_label.csv: volume per FS label

volumes_per_ants_label.csv: volume per ANTs label

thickinthehead_per_freesurfer_cortex_label.csv: FS cortex label thickness

thickinthehead_per_ants_cortex_label.csv: ANTs cortex label thickness

[left,right]_cortical_surface /

label_shapes.csv: per-label surface shape statistics

sulcus_shapes.csv: per-sulcus surface shape statistics

fundus_shapes.csv: per-fundus surface shape statistics – UNDER EVALUATION –

vertices.csv: per-vertex surface shape statistics