Back in April 2013 I posted instructions for how to plot a NIfTI image in caret. However, caret isn't under active development any more: it has been superseded by/transformed into the Connectome Workbench.
As always, please let me know (or comment) with corrections, or if you know of easier ways to accomplish anything I describe here. I performed these steps today (19 September 2013), using workbench_windows64.beta_0.83, and have updated as needed for later versions.
downloadingThe installation procedure for the Workbench is quite similar to that for caret. First, download the appropriate version, then unzip it to wherever you want to run it from. Like caret, you don't "install" Workbench but just unzip the download then double-click the executable. On my windows box I unzipped it into d:/, so double-click
The program doesn't come with a tutorial or manual, but a tutorial pdf and dataset are linked from the same page as the program itself. I strongly suggest you go through at least the first chapter of the tutorial, since it steps through the main parts of the software's interface, giving pretty clear click-by-click directions and explanations.
getting a blank brainWhile the tutorial clearly explains how to navigate through and manipulate the sample dataset, it doesn't explain how to get a blank brain and overlay a NIfTI image, which is what I want to do to duplicate what I did with caret. So here goes.
This test NIfTI image is aligned to MNI space. My caret-saavy coworker suggested that the Conte69 atlas is an appropriate underlay for this image. Follow the links from this page to download the Workbench-compatible version of the atlas (32k_fs_LR mesh). Like installing Workbench itself, the atlas is downloaded as a zip, which you should unpack into a sensible directory; I put mine into a subdirectory of the main workbench directory.
Look in the atlas directory: there will be a single .spec file (Conte69_atlas-v2.LR.32k_fs_LR.wb.spec). Make a copy of this file, and rename the copy to something describing the anatomy + overlay we're making, like test.spec. This way, we can save the overlay and anatomy together (and so avoid doing the imports again) without overwriting the original files.
Start the Workbench. In Windows, I double-click
The first window closes and a new one appears, listing all of the files linked in the spec file. For now, let's just load them all, so don't change anything, and click the Load button. My computer gives a little dialog showing the progress as the files are loaded (along with a warning that something is missing), which disappears and the main Workbench appears, with a blank brain.
changing the main viewing windowwhat we saw in caret, but more hemispheres and a lot fewer clicks and menus to get to this point.
I'm not going to go into detail about manipulating the view, since I think chapter 1 of the tutorial explains it pretty well.
Briefly, the parts I marked in orange at right are the main controls for adjusting the display: the dropboxes in the "Montage Selection" area control how inflated the anatomy is, and the checkboxes which hemispheres are shown. Like in caret, you can use the mouse to rotate the images (and zoom), or click the little buttons in the "View" and "Orientation" panes to switch to standard views.
The bottom section (marked with orange arrows) controls viewing the overlays. The conte69 atlas set includes some overlays, listed in the File dropboxes, and shown (or not) by the little On checkboxes. Click around (and read the tutorial) to figure out what these do.
overlaying a NIfTI image: preparationNow that we have the blank brain we can put our clusters on it. In my caret directions I describe a series of menu choices, starting with clicking on Attributes, then Map Volume(s) to Surface(s) in the top menus. But, these menus are not present in the Workbench, so we have to use the command line. What we will do is use the command line program to turn our NIfTI into two .shape.gii files, which we can then open, view, and add to the test.spec file in the Workbench GUI.
So, to run a command line program we need a command line. I don't like messing with paths, so I navigated to the directory containing wb_command.exe (on my machine, /bin_windows64/, same as workbench.exe). We're going to use the -volume-to-surface-mapping function; typing wb_command -volume-to-surface-mapping at the command prompt should cause it to print out the help file and details about how the mapping is done. As its help explains, the -volume-to-surface-mapping function needs the NIfTI we're converting (fakeBrain.nii.gz), what we want the output to be called, and what surface we're mapping to.
In this case, we want to put the NIfTI onto the conte69 blank brain (which we loaded into Workbench above). The -volume-to-surface-mapping function uses a surf.gii file to specify the surface; several of these came in the conte69 atlas set. I want a modest level of inflation, so I decide on the "midthickness" surf.gii files (there are also very inflated ones, etc.). Note that there are two midthickness surf.gii files: one for the left hemisphere, one for the right. Thus, we will run the -volume-to-surface-mapping function twice on the NIfTI, making one shape.gii file for the left hemisphere and another for the right.
Now we're ready, so run these two lines at the command prompt (change the paths, obviously):
wb_command -volume-to-surface-mapping d:/temp/fakeBrain.nii.gz d:/temp/Conte69_atlas-v2.LR.32k_fs_LR.wb/32k_ConteAtlas_v2/Conte69.L.midthickness.32k_fs_LR.surf.gii d:/temp/fakeBrainL.shape.gii -trilinear wb_command -volume-to-surface-mapping d:/temp/fakeBrain.nii.gz d:/temp/Conte69_atlas-v2.LR.32k_fs_LR.wb/32k_ConteAtlas_v2/Conte69.R.midthickness.32k_fs_LR.surf.gii d:/temp/fakeBrainR.shape.gii -trilinear
If all goes well, there won't be any output at the command line, but two files will be created: fakeBrainL.shape.gii and fakeBrainR.shape.gii.
actually overlaying the NIfTI imageNow, we can actually overlay our NIfTI image (well, the shape.gii files created from the .nii.gz). In the Workbench program's top menus click on File then Open File. Change the dropdown box at the bottom of the screen so that it's looking for Files of type "Metric Files (*.func.gii *.shape.gii)". Navigate and select both fakeBrainL.shape.gii and fakeBrainR.shape.gii.
The Workbench screen won't visibly change, but don't fear! There should now be two new entries in the File dropboxes at the bottom of the screen (marked here with big orange arrows); select them, click the corresponding On checkbox, and the blobs should appear, as shown here. The little boxes to the left of the dropboxes (Settings and Opacity) adjust colors, show scales, and more rows, etc.
saving the changes to test.specIf you want, you can add the shape.gii files to the .spec file. Then, instead of having to open them each time you can open the single test.spec file. Click "File" then "Save/Manage Files ..." from the top menus. A window will appear listing everything in the test.spec, as well as the two Metric files we added (fakeBrainL.shape.gii and fakeBrainR.shape.gii). The little checkboxes in the "In Spec" column will not be checked for these files, because we just opened them. Check the boxes for these files in both the "Save" and "In Spec" columns, as well as the very top checkbox in the "Save" column for the spec file itself, and then click the "Save Checked Files" button at the bottom of the dialog. The checks in the Save column (and red warning lettering) will disappear, but those in the "In Spec file" column will not, showing that they were saved into test.spec. Click "Close" at the bottom of the dialog.
Select File, then Exit from the top menu. A warning should appear that you are exiting; if one appears that there are unsaved changes, check that everything was marked properly in the "Save/Manage Files ..." dialog. Open up the Workbench again. test.spec should now be in the list of "Recent Spec Files"; opening it will bring up the program with fakeBrainL.shape.gii and fakeBrainR.shape.gii already in the Overlay File dropboxes, without having to load them separately.
commentsWhile having to go to the command line is a bit of a hassle, after a bit of exploration I've found the Workbench a bit easier to use than caret to do this plotting. The Connectome Workbench is under very active development, so I'm sure some of these directions will soon be obsolete. But for now, give it a try!
UPDATE 2 August 2017: added a reference to the new getting-started tutorial.
UPDATE 2 June 2016: Made a few light edits and confirmed that these instructions work with Workbench version 1.2.0.
UPDATE 9 February 2014: The same procedure will work to plot a NIfTI that has integer values (e.g. a ROI mask), but the resulting surface image will have strange shading around the edges of the ROIs. To avoid this, use -enclosing in the command to wb_command instead of -trilinear.