(Un)common space in infant neuroimaging studies: A systematic review of infant templates

Alexander J. Dufford*, C. Alice Hahn, Hannah Peterson, Silvia Gini, Saloni Mehta, Alexis Alfano, Dustin Scheinost

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In neuroimaging, spatial normalization is an important step that maps an individual's brain onto a template brain permitting downstream statistical analyses. Yet, in infant neuroimaging, there remain several technical challenges that have prevented the establishment of a standardized template for spatial normalization. Thus, many different approaches are used in the literature. To quantify the popularity and variability of these approaches in infant neuroimaging studies, we performed a systematic review of infant magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies from 2000 to 2020. Here, we present results from 834 studies meeting inclusion criteria. Studies were classified into (a) processing data in single subject space, (b) using an off the shelf, or “off the shelf,” template, (c) creating a study specific template, or (d) using a hybrid of these methods. We found that across the studies in the systematic review, single subject space was the most used (no common space). This was the most used common space for diffusion-weighted imaging and structural MRI studies while functional MRI studies preferred off the shelf atlases. We found a pattern such that more recently published studies are more commonly using off the shelf atlases. When considering special populations, preterm studies most used single subject space while, when no special populations were being analyzed, an off the shelf template was most common. The most used off the shelf templates were the UNC Infant Atlases (24%). Using a systematic review of infant neuroimaging studies, we highlight a lack of an established “standard” template brain in these studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3007-3016
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jun 15 2022


  • common space
  • functional
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • neonatal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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