Morph surface source estimate

This example demonstrates how to morph an individual subject’s mne.SourceEstimate to a common reference space. We achieve this using mne.SourceMorph. Pre-computed data will be morphed based on a spherical representation of the cortex computed using the spherical registration of FreeSurfer ( [1]. This transform will be used to morph the surface vertices of the subject towards the reference vertices. Here we will use ‘fsaverage’ as a reference space (see

The transformation will be applied to the surface source estimate. A plot depicting the successful morph will be created for the spherical and inflated surface representation of 'fsaverage', overlaid with the morphed surface source estimate.


[1]Greve D. N., Van der Haegen L., Cai Q., Stufflebeam S., Sabuncu M. R., Fischl B., Brysbaert M. A Surface-based Analysis of Language Lateralization and Cortical Asymmetry. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 25(9), 1477-1492, 2013.


For a tutorial about morphing see: Morphing source estimates: Moving data from one brain to another.

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

import mne
from mne.datasets import sample


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_stc = os.path.join(sample_dir, 'sample_audvis-meg')

Load example data

# Read stc from file
stc = mne.read_source_estimate(fname_stc, subject='sample')

Setting up SourceMorph for SourceEstimate

In MNE surface source estimates represent the source space simply as lists of vertices (see The SourceEstimate data structure). This list can either be obtained from mne.SourceSpaces (src) or from the stc itself.

Since the default spacing (resolution of surface mesh) is 5 and subject_to is set to ‘fsaverage’, mne.SourceMorph will use default ico-5 fsaverage vertices to morph, which are the special values [np.arange(10242)] * 2.


This is not generally true for other subjects! The set of vertices used for fsaverage with ico-5 spacing was designed to be special. ico-5 spacings for other subjects (or other spacings for fsaverage) must be calculated and will not be consecutive integers.

If src was not defined, the morph will actually not be precomputed, because we lack the vertices from that we want to compute. Instead the morph will be set up and when applying it, the actual transformation will be computed on the fly.

Initialize SourceMorph for SourceEstimate

morph = mne.compute_source_morph(stc, subject_from='sample',


surface source space inferred...
Computing morph matrix...
    Left-hemisphere map read.
    Right-hemisphere map read.
    17 smooth iterations done.
    14 smooth iterations done.

Apply morph to (Vector) SourceEstimate

The morph will be applied to the source estimate data, by giving it as the first argument to the morph we computed above.

stc_fsaverage = morph.apply(stc)

Plot results

# Define plotting parameters
surfer_kwargs = dict(
    hemi='lh', subjects_dir=subjects_dir,
    clim=dict(kind='value', lims=[8, 12, 15]), views='lateral',
    initial_time=0.09, time_unit='s', size=(800, 800),

# As spherical surface
brain = stc_fsaverage.plot(surface='sphere', **surfer_kwargs)

# Add title
brain.add_text(0.1, 0.9, 'Morphed to fsaverage (spherical)', 'title',

As inflated surface

brain_inf = stc_fsaverage.plot(surface='inflated', **surfer_kwargs)

# Add title
brain_inf.add_text(0.1, 0.9, 'Morphed to fsaverage (inflated)', 'title',

Reading and writing SourceMorph from and to disk

An instance of SourceMorph can be saved, by calling

This method 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 use 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:

stc_fsaverage = mne.compute_source_morph(stc,


surface source space inferred...
Computing morph matrix...
    Left-hemisphere map read.
    Right-hemisphere map read.
    17 smooth iterations done.
    14 smooth iterations done.

Total running time of the script: ( 0 minutes 33.820 seconds)

Estimated memory usage: 10 MB

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