TWave: High-order analysis of functional MRI

Michael Barnathan, Vasileios Megalooikonomou, Christos Faloutsos, Scott Faro, Feroze B. Mohamed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The traditional approach to functional image analysis models images as matrices of raw voxel intensity values. Although such a representation is widely utilized and heavily entrenched both within neuroimaging and in the wider data mining community, the strong interactions among space, time, and categorical modes such as subject and experimental task inherent in functional imaging yield a dataset with "high-order" structure, which matrix models are incapable of exploiting. Reasoning across all of these modes of data concurrently requires a high-order model capable of representing relationships between all modes of the data in tandem. We thus propose to model functional MRI data using tensors, which are high-order generalizations of matrices equivalent to multidimensional arrays or data cubes. However, several unique challenges exist in the high-order analysis of functional medical data: naïve tensor models are incapable of exploiting spatiotemporal locality patterns, standard tensor analysis techniques exhibit poor efficiency, and mixtures of numeric and categorical modes of data are very often present in neuroimaging experiments. Formulating the problem of image clustering as a form of Latent Semantic Analysis and using the WaveCluster algorithm as a baseline, we propose a comprehensive hybrid tensor and wavelet framework for clustering, concept discovery, and compression of functional medical images which successfully addresses these challenges. Our approach reduced runtime and dataset size on a 9.3. GB finger opposition motor task fMRI dataset by up to 98% while exhibiting improved spatiotemporal coherence relative to standard tensor, wavelet, and voxel-based approaches. Our clustering technique was capable of automatically differentiating between the frontal areas of the brain responsible for task-related habituation and the motor regions responsible for executing the motor task, in contrast to a widely used fMRI analysis program, SPM, which only detected the latter region. Furthermore, our approach discovered latent concepts suggestive of subject handedness nearly 100× faster than standard approaches. These results suggest that a high-order model is an integral component to accurate scalable functional neuroimaging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-548
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 15 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Clustering
  • FMRI
  • Latent Semantic Analysis
  • Parallel Factor Analysis
  • Tensors
  • Wavelets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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