Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name



Computer Science

First Advisor

Jing Hua


Data visualization has transformed how we analyze increasingly large and complex data sets. Advanced visual tools logically represent data in a way that communicates the most important information inherent within it and culminate the analysis with an insightful conclusion. Automated analysis disciplines - such as data mining, machine learning, and statistics - have traditionally been the most dominant fields for data analysis. It has been complemented with a near-ubiquitous adoption of specialized hardware and software environments that handle the storage, retrieval, and pre- and postprocessing of digital data. The addition of interactive visualization tools allows an active human participant in the model creation process. The advantage is a data-driven approach where the constraints and assumptions of the model can be explored and chosen based on human insight and confirmed on demand by the analytic system. This translates to a better understanding of data and a more effective knowledge discovery. This trend has become very popular across various domains, not limited to machine learning, simulation, computer vision, genetics, stock market, data mining, and geography.

In this dissertation, we highlight the role of visualization within the context of medical image analysis in the field of neuroimaging. The analysis of brain images has uncovered amazing traits about its underlying dynamics. Multiple image modalities capture qualitatively different internal brain mechanisms and abstract it within the information space of that modality. Computational studies based on these modalities help correlate the high-level brain function measurements with abnormal human behavior. These functional maps are easily projected in the physical space through accurate 3-D brain reconstructions and visualized in excellent detail from different anatomical vantage points. Statistical models built for comparative analysis across subject groups test for significant variance within the features and localize abnormal behaviors contextualizing the high-level brain activity. Currently, the task of identifying the features is based on empirical evidence, and preparing data for testing is time-consuming. Correlations among features are usually ignored due to lack of insight. With a multitude of features available and with new emerging modalities appearing, the process of identifying the salient features and their interdependencies becomes more difficult to perceive. This limits the analysis only to certain discernible features, thus limiting human judgments regarding the most important process that governs the symptom and hinders prediction. These shortcomings can be addressed using an analytical system that leverages data-driven techniques for guiding the user toward discovering relevant hypotheses.

The research contributions within this dissertation encompass multidisciplinary fields of study not limited to geometry processing, computer vision, and 3-D visualization. However, the principal achievement of this research is the design and development of an interactive system for multimodality integration of medical images. The research proceeds in various stages, which are important to reach the desired goal. The different stages are briefly described as follows: First, we develop a rigorous geometry computation framework for brain surface matching. The brain is a highly convoluted structure of closed topology. Surface parameterization explicitly captures the non-Euclidean geometry of the cortical surface and helps derive a more accurate registration of brain surfaces. We describe a technique based on conformal parameterization that creates a bijective mapping to the canonical domain, where surface operations can be performed with improved efficiency and feasibility. Subdividing the brain into a finite set of anatomical elements provides the structural basis for a categorical division of anatomical view points and a spatial context for statistical analysis. We present statistically significant results of our analysis into functional and morphological features for a variety of brain disorders.

Second, we design and develop an intelligent and interactive system for visual analysis of brain disorders by utilizing the complete feature space across all modalities. Each subdivided anatomical unit is specialized by a vector of features that overlap within that element. The analytical framework provides the necessary interactivity for exploration of salient features and discovering relevant hypotheses. It provides visualization tools for confirming model results and an easy-to-use interface for manipulating parameters for feature selection and filtering. It provides coordinated display views for visualizing multiple features across multiple subject groups, visual representations for highlighting interdependencies and correlations between features, and an efficient data-management solution for maintaining provenance and issuing formal data queries to the back end.