qx_utilities.processing.workflow.preprocess_conc(sinfo, options, overwrite=False, thread=0)#

preprocess_conc [... processing options]

Performs spatial smoothing, temporal filtering, removal of nuisance signals and complex modeling of events.

preprocess_conc is a complex general purpose command implementing spatial and temporal filtering, and multiple regression (GLM) to enable both preprocessing and denoising of BOLD files for further analysis, as well as complex activation modeling that creates GLM files for second-level analyses. The function enables the following actions:

  • spatial smoothing (3D or 2D for cifti files)

  • temporal filtering (high-pass, low-pass)

  • removal of nuisance signal

  • complex modeling of events.

The function makes use of a number of files and accepts a long list of arguments that make it very powerful and flexible but also require care in its use. What follows is a detailed documentation of its actions and parameters organized by actions in the order they would be most commonly done. Use and parameter description will be intertwined.


--batchfile (str, default ''):

The batch.txt file with all the session information.

--sessionsfolder (str, default '.'):

The path to the study/sessions folder, where the imaging data is supposed to go.

--parsessions (str, default 1):

How many sessions to run in parallel.

--overwrite (str, default 'no'):

Whether to overwrite existing data ('yes') or not ('no').

--boldname (str, default 'bold'):

The default name of the bold files in the images folder.

--image_target (str, default 'nifti'):

The target format to work with, one of '4dfp', 'nifti', 'dtseries' or 'ptseries'.

--logfolder (str, default ''):

The path to the folder where runlogs and comlogs are to be stored, if other than default.

--log (str, default 'study'):

Whether to keep ('keep') or remove ('remove') the temporary logs once jobs are completed. When a comma or pipe ('|') separated list is given, the log will be created at the first provided location and then linked or copied to other locations. The valid locations are:

  • 'study' (for the default: <study>/processing/logs/comlogs location)

  • 'session' (for <sessionid>/logs/comlogs)

  • 'hcp' (for <hcp_folder>/logs/comlogs)

  • <path> (for an arbitrary directory).

--bolds (str, default 'all'):

A pipe ('|') separated list of conc names to process.

--event_file (str, default ''):

A pipe ('|') separated list of fidl names to use, that matches the conc list.

--bold_actions (str, default 's,h,r,c,l'):

A string specifying which actions, and in what sequence to perform.

--nifti_tail (str, default ''):

The tail of NIfTI volume images to use.

--cifti_tail (str, default ''):

The tail of CIFTI images to use.

--bold_prefix (str, default ''):

An optional prefix to place in front of processing name extensions in the resulting files, e.g. bold3<bold_prefix>_s_hpss.nii.gz.

--bold_variant (str, default detailed below):

Optional variant of HCP BOLD preprocessing. If specified, the BOLD images in images/functional<bold_variant> will be processed.

--img_suffix (str, default ''):

Specifies a suffix for 'images' folder to enable support for multiple parallel workflows. Empty if not used.

Output files

This step results in the following files (if requested):

  • residual image:

    <root>_res-<regressors><glm name>.<ext>
  • GLM image:

    <bold name><bold tail>_conc_<event root>_res-<regressors><glm name>_Bcoeff.<ext>
  • text GLM regressor matrix:

    glm/<bold name><bold tail>_GLM-X_<event root>_res-<regressors><glm name>.txt
  • image of a regressor matrix:

    ``glm/<bold name><bold tail>_GLM-X_<event root>_res-<regressors><glm name>.png``


The --bolds and --event_file parameters provide names based on which the the appropriate .conc and .fidl files are searched for. Both are first searched for in images<img_suffix>/functional<bold_variant>/concs and images<img_suffix>/functional<bold_variant>/events folders respectively. There they would be named as [<session id>_]<boldname>_<image_target>_<conc name>.conc and [<session id>_]<boldname>_<image_target>_<fidl name>.fidl. If the files are not present in the relevant individual session's folders, they are searched for in the <sessionsfolder>/inbox/events and <sessionsfolder>/inbox/concs folder. In that case the "<session id>_" in the *.fidl and *.conc file name is not optional but required.

The --bold_actions parameter specifies the actions, denoted by a single letter, that will be executed in the sequence listed:


Motion scrubbing.


Spatial smoothing.


High-pass filtering.


Regression (nuisance and/or task) with an optional number 0, 1, or 2 specifying the type of regression to use (see REGRESSION below).


Low-pass filtering.

So the default 's,h,r,c,l' --bold_actions parameter would lead to the files first being smoothed, then high-pass filtered. Next a regression step would follow in which nuisance signal and/or task related signal would be estimated and regressed out, then the related beta estimates would be saved. Lastly the BOLDs would be also low-pass filtered.

Relative vs. absolute use of conc files:

If conc_use is set to relative (the default), then the only information taken from the conc files will be the bold numbers. The actual location of the bold files will be constructed from the information on the location of the session's sesion folder present in the batch file, and the bold_variant setting, whereas the specific bold file name and file format (e.g. .nii.gz vs. .dtseries.nii) to use will depend on boldname, image_target, nifti_tail and cifti_tail settings. This allows for flexible use of conc files. That is, the same conc files can be used for NIfTI and CIFTI versions of bold files, across bold variants, and even when the actual study location changes, e.g. when moving the study from one server, volume or folder to another. In most cases this use will be prefered.

If the information in the conc file is to be used literally, e.g. in cases when you want to work with a specific preprocessed version of the BOLD files, then conc_use should be set to absolute. In this case both the specific location as well as the specific filename specified in the conc file will be used exactly as specified. In this case, do check and make sure that the information in the conc file is valid and it matches with boldname and image_target parameters, and that the nifti_tail is specified correctly, as it will be used to obtain bold statistics and nuisance information!


The command either makes use of scrubbing information or performs scrubbing comuputation on its own (when 'm' is part of the command). In the latter case, all the scrubbing parameters need to be specified:

--mov_radius (int, default 50):

Estimated head radius (in mm) for computing frame displacement statistics.

--mov_fd (float, default 0.5):

Frame displacement threshold (in mm) to use for identifying bad frames.

--mov_dvars (float, default 3.0):

The (mean normalized) dvars threshold to use for identifying bad frames.

--mov_dvarsme (float, default 1.5):

The (median normalized) dvarsm threshold to use for identifying bad frames.

--mov_after (int, default 0):

How many frames after each frame identified as bad to also exclude from further processing and analysis.

--mov_before (int, default 0):

How many frames before each frame identified as bad to also exclude from further processing and analysis.

--mov_bad (str, default 'udvarsme'):

Which criteria to use for identification of bad frames.

Criteria for identification of bad frames can be one out of:


Frame displacement threshold (fdt) is exceeded.


Image intensity normalized root mean squared error (RMSE) threshold (dvarsmt) is exceeded.


Median normalised RMSE (dvarsmet) threshold is exceeded.


Both fdt and dvarsmt are exceeded (i for intersection).


Either fdt or dvarsmt are exceeded (u for union).


Both fdt and dvarsmet are exceeded.


Either fdt or udvarsmet are exceeded.

For more detailed description please see wiki entry on Movement scrubbing.

In any case, if scrubbing was done beforehand or as a part of this command, one has to specify, how the scrubbing information is used:


String describing how to deal with bad frames.

The string has the following format:

'hipass:<filtering opt.>|regress:<regression opt.>|lopass:<filtering opt.>'

Filtering options are:


Keep all the bad frames unchanged.


Replace bad frames with linear interpolated values based on neighboring good frames.


Replace bad frames with spline interpolated values based on neighboring good frames.

To prevent artifacts present in bad frames to be temporarily spread, use either 'linear' or 'spline' options.

Regression options are:


Keep the bad frames and use them in the regression.


Exclude bad frames from regression.


Exclude bad frames from regression and mark the bad frames as NaN.


Replace bad frames with linear interpolated values based on neighboring good frames.


Replace bad frames with spline interpolated values based on neighboring good frames.

Please note that when the bad frames are not kept, the original values will be retained in the residual signal. In this case they have to be excluded or ignored also in all following analyses, otherwise they can be a significant source of artifacts.

Spatial smoothing:
Volume smoothing:

For volume formats the images will be smoothed using the img_smooth_3d nimage method. For cifti format the smooting will be done by calling the relevant wb_command command. The smoothing parameters are:

--voxel_smooth (int, default 1):

Gaussian smoothing FWHM in voxels.

--smooth_mask (str, default false):

Whether to smooth only within a mask, and what mask to use (nonzero|brainsignal|brainmask|<filename>|false).

--dilate_mask (str, default false):

Whether to dilate the image after masked smoothing and what mask to use (nonzero|brainsignal|brainmask|same|<filename>|false).

If a smoothing mask is set, only the signal within the specified mask will be used in the smoothing. If a dilation mask is set, after smoothing within a mask, the resulting signal will be constrained / dilated to the specified dilation mask.

For both parameters the possible options are:


Mask will consist of all the nonzero voxels of the first BOLD frame.


Mask will consist of all the voxels that are of value 300 or higher in the first BOLD frame (this gave a good coarse brain mask for images intensity normalized to mode 1000 in the NIL preprocessing stream).


Mask will be the actual bet extracted brain mask based on the first BOLD frame (generated using in the creatBOLDBrainMasks command).


All the non-zero voxels in a specified volume file will be used as a mask.


No mask will be used.


Only for dilate_mask, the mask used will be the same as smoothing mask.

Cifti smoothing:

For cifti format images, smoothing will be run using wb_command. The following parameters can be set:

--surface_smooth (float, default 2.0):

FWHM for Gaussian surface smoothing in mm.

--volume_smooth (float, default 2.0):

FWHM for Gaussian volume smoothing in mm.

--framework_path (str, default ''):

The path to framework libraries on the Mac system. No need to use it currently if installed correctly.

--wb_command_path (str, default ''):

The path to the wb_command executive. No need to use it currently if installed correctly.


The resulting smoothed files are saved with '_s' added to the BOLD root filename.

Temporal filtering:

Temporal filtering is accomplished using img_filter nimage method. The code is adopted from the FSL C++ code enabling appropriate handling of bad frames (as described above - see SCRUBBING). The parameters are:

--hipass_filter (float, default 0.008):

The frequency for high-pass filtering in Hz.

--lopass_filter (float, default 0.09):

The frequency for low-pass filtering in Hz.

Please note that the values finally passed to img_filter method are the respective sigma values computed from the specified frequencies and TR.

Filtering of nuisance signal, movement, task, and events Besides data, nuisance signal, motion parameters, and event regressors can be filtered as well. What to filter beside data can be specified by a comma separated list using the following parameters:

--hipass_do (str, default 'nuisance')

What to high-pass filter besides data – options are: nuisance, movement, events, task. Default is 'nuisance'.

--lopass_do (str, default 'nuisance,movement,task,events')

What to lo-pass filter besides data – options are: nuisance, movement, events, task. Default is 'nuisance, movement, task, events'.

Note that 'events' refers to regressors created based on events as specified in the fidl file, whereas 'task' refers to a task matrix that is passed directy in the matlab function call.


The resulting filtered files are saved with '_hpss' or '_bpss' added to the BOLD root filename for high-pass and low-pass filtering, respectively.


Regression is a complex step in which GLM is used to estimate the beta weights for the specified nuisance regressors and events. The resulting beta weights are then stored in a GLM file (a regular file with additional information on the design used) and residuals are stored in a separate file. This step can therefore be used for two purposes: (1) to remove nuisance signal and event structure from BOLD files, removing unwanted potential sources of correlation for further functional connectivity analyses, and (2) to get task beta estimates for further activation analyses. The following parameters are used in this step:

--bold_nuisance (str, default 'm,m1d,mSq,m1dSq,V,WM,WB,1d'):

A comma separated list of regressors to include in GLM. Possible values are:

  • 'm' ... motion parameters

  • 'm1d' ... first derivative of motion parameters

  • 'mSq' ... squared motion parameters

  • 'm1dSq' ... squared first derivative of motion parameters

  • 'V' ... ventricles signal

  • 'WM' ... white matter signal

  • 'WB' ... whole brain signal

  • '1d' ... first derivative of above nuisance signals

  • 'e' ... events listed in the provided fidl files.

--event_string (str, default ''):

A string describing, how to model the events listed in the provided fidl files.

--glm_matrix (str, default 'none'):

Whether to save the GLM matrix as a text file ('text'), a png image file ('image'), both ('both') or not ('none').

--glm_results (str, default 'c,r')

A string which of the GLM analysis results are saved. Possible values are:

  • 'c' ... Saving of resulting beta coefficients.

  • 'z' ... Saving of resulting z-scores of beta coefficients.

  • 'p' ... Saving of session-level coefficient p-values.

  • 'se' ... Saving of standard errors of beta coefficients.

  • 'r' ... Saving of resulting residuals of the GLM.

  • 'all' ... Saving all of the results above.

--glm_name (str, default ''):

An additional name to add to the residuals and GLM files to distinguish between different possible models used.

GLM modeling:

There are two important variables that affect the exact GLM model used to estimate nuisance and task beta coefficients and regress them from the signal. The first is the optional number following the 'r' command in the --bold_actions parameter. There are three options:

  • '0' ... Estimate nuisance regressors for each bold file separately, however, model events across all bold files (the default if no number is) specified.

  • '1' ... Estimate both nuisance regressors and task regressors for each bold run separately.

  • '2' ... Estimate both nuisance regressors as well as task regressors across all bold runs.

The second key variable is the event string provided by the --event_string parameter. The event string is a pipe ('|') separated list of regressor specifications. The possibilities are discussed below:

Unassumed Modeling:
<fidl code>:<length in frames>

Where <fidl code> is the code for the event used in the fidl file, and <length in frames> specifies, for how many frames of the bold run (since the onset of the event) the event should be modeled.

Assumed Modeling:
<fidl code>:<hrf>[-run|-uni][:<length>]

Where <fidl code> is the same as above, <hrf> is the type of the hemodynamic response function to use, '-run' and '-uni' specify how the regressor should be normalized, and <length> is an optional parameter, with its value dependent on the model used. The allowed <hrf> are:

  • 'boynton' ... uses the Boynton HRF

  • 'SPM' ... uses the SPM double gaussian HRF

  • 'u' ... unassumed (see above)

  • 'block' ... block response.

For the first two, the <length> parameter is optional and would override the event duration information provided in the fidl file. For 'u' the length is the same as in previous section: the number of frames to model. For 'block' length should be two numbers separated by a colon (e.g. 2:9) that specify the start and end offset (from the event onset) to model as a block.

Assumed HRF regressors normalization:

hrf_types boynton and SPM can be marked with an additional flag denoting how to normalize the regressor.

In case of <hrf function>-uni, e.g. 'boynton-uni' or 'SPM-uni', the HRF function will be normalized to have the area under the curve equal to 1. This ensures uniform and universal, scaling of the resulting regressor across all event lengths. In addition, the scaling is not impacted by weights (e.g. behavioral coregressors), which in turn ensures that the weights are not scaled.

In case of <hrf function>-run, e.g. boynton-run or SPM-run, the resulting regressor is normalized to amplitude of 1 within each bold run separately. This can result in different scaling of regressors with different durations, and of the same regressor across different runs. Scaling in this case is performed after the signal is weighted, so in effect the scaling of weights (e.g. behavioral regressors), can differ across bold runs.

The flag can be abbreviated to '-r' and '-u'. If not specified, '-run' will be assumed (the default might change).

Naming And Behavioral Regressors:

Each of the above (unassumed and assumed modeling specification) can be followed by a ">" (greater-than character), which signifies additional information in the form:


The name of the resulting regressor.


The number of the additional behavioral regressors column in the fidl file (1-based) to use as a weight for the regressors.


Whether to normalize the behavioral weight within a specific event type ('within') or across all events ('across'). [within]


The method to use for normalization. Options are:

  • 'z' (compute Z-score)

  • '01' (normalize to fixed range 0 to 1)

  • '-11' (normalize to fixed range -1 to 1)

  • 'none' (use weights as provided in fidl file)

Example string:


This would result in three sets of task regressors: one assumed task regressor for the sustained activity across the block, one unassumed task regressor set spanning 9 frames that would model the presentation of the target, and one behaviorally weighted unassumed regressor that would for each frame estimate the variability in response as explained by the reaction time to the target.


Activation analysis:

qunex preprocess_conc \\
    --batchfile=fcMRI/sessions_hcp.txt \\
    --sessionsfolder=sessions \\
    --overwrite=no \\
    --parsessions=10 \\
    --bolds=SRT \\
    --event_file=SRT \\
    --glm_name=-M1 \\
    --bold_actions="s,r,c" \\
    --bold_nuisance=e \\
    --mov_bad=none \\
    --event_string="block:boynton|target:9|target:9>target_rt:1:within:z" \\
    --glm_matrix=both \\
    --glm_residuals=none \\

Functional connectivity preprocessing:

qunex preprocess_conc \\
    --batchfile=fcMRI/sessions_hcp.txt \\
    --sessionsfolder=sessions \\
    --overwrite=no \\
    --parsessions=10 \\
    --bolds=SRT \\
    --event_file=SRT \\
    --glm_name=-FC \\
    --bold_actions="s,h,r,c,l" \\
    --bold_nuisance="m,V,WM,WB,1d,e" \\
    --mov_bad=udvarsme \\
    --event_string="block:boynton|target:9" \\
    --glm_matrix=none \\
    --glm_residuals=save \\