How to Make MRI Data Unidentifiable

When submitting your imaging data to a public repository it is very important that you make sure to deidentify your images. There are three important source of identifiable information. The most obvious is of course the filenames. Less obvious are (1) the information stored in the file headers and (2) the participants’ 3D image of the face that is often part of the T1 weighted image. There are several tools that help removing this data.

First, removing the header can be done by using the LONI De-identification Debablet (http://www.loni.ucla.edu/Software/DiD), which is a simple Java application for removing patient-identifying information (e.g., patient name and id) from medical image files. Alternatively one could use MRIcron (http://www.cabiatl.com/mricro/) or simple command line tools.

Structural Image before (A) and after defacing (B). It is clear that facial features are no longer recognizable but (C) essential brain data is still fully accessible.

Structural Image before (A) and after defacing (B). It is clear that facial features are no longer recognizable but (C) essential brain data is still fully accessible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Removing the face of a structural image can be done using the Mbrin defacer package ( http://www.nitrc.org/projects/mri_deface/). Alternatively, FSL brain extraction tool could be used to remove all non-brain tissue, although this might be more time intensive. In both cases is it essential to check whether deidentification is successful while brain data is still 100% intact (see Figure).

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