Seeing More by Showing Less: Orientation-Dependent Transparency Rendering for Fiber Tractography Visualization

Tax, Chantal M. W., Chamberland, Maxime, van Stralen, Marijn, Viergever, Max A., Whittingstall, Kevin, Fortin, David, Descoteaux, Maxime, Leemans, Alexander


PLoS ONE [E] 10 (10),


Fiber tractography plays an important role in exploring the architectural organization of fiber trajectories, both in fundamental neuroscience and in clinical applications. With the advent of diffusion MRI (dMRI) approaches that can also model "crossing fibers", the complexity of the fiber network as reconstructed with tractography has increased tremendously. Many pathways interdigitate and overlap, which hampers an unequivocal 3D visualization of the network and impedes an efficient study of its organization. We propose a novel fiber tractography visualization approach that interactively and selectively adapts the transparency rendering of fiber trajectories as a function of their orientation to enhance the visibility of the spatial context. More specifically, pathways that are oriented (locally or globally) along a user-specified opacity axis can be made more transparent or opaque. This substantially improves the 3D visualization of the fiber network and the exploration of tissue configurations that would otherwise be largely covered by other pathways. We present examples of fiber bundle extraction and neurosurgical planning cases where the added benefit of our new visualization scheme is demonstrated over conventional fiber visualization approaches.