[Neuroimaging] Nibabel API change - always read as float

Matthew Brett matthew.brett at gmail.com
Sat Jul 18 18:25:03 CEST 2015


Sorry to be late to reply to this one.

On Mon, Jul 6, 2015 at 4:55 PM, Yaroslav Halchenko <lists at onerussian.com> wrote:
> On Mon, 06 Jul 2015, Matthew Brett wrote:
>> Hi,
>> I wanted to ask y'all about an API change that I want to make to nibabel.
>> In summary, I want to default to returning floating point arrays from
>> nibabel images.
>> Problem - different returned data types from img.get_data()
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> At the moment, if you do this:
>> img = nib.load('my_image.nii')
>> data = img.get_data()
>> Then the data type (dtype) of the returned data array depends on the
>> values in the header of `my_image.nii`.   Specifically, if the raw
>> on-disk data type is 'np.int16' (it is often is) and the header
>> scalefactor values are default (1 for slope, 0 for intercept) then you
>> will get back an array of the on disk data type - here - np.int16.
>> This is very efficient on memory, but it it's a real trap unless you careful.
>> For example, let's say you had a pipeline where you did this:
>> sum = img.get_data().sum()
>> That would work fine most of the time, when the data on disk is
>> floating point, or the scalefactors are not default (1, 0).   Then one
>> day, you get an image with int16 data type on disk and 1, 0
>> scalefactors, and your `sum` calculation silently overflows.    I ran
>> into this when teaching - I had to cast some image arrays to floating
>> point to get sensible answers.
>> Solution
>> -----------
>> I think that the default behavior of nibabel should be to do the thing
>> least likely to trip you up by accident, so - I think in due course,
>> nibabel should always return a floating point array from `get_data()`
>> by default.
>> I propose to add a keyword-only argument to `get_data()` - `to_float`, as in:
>> data = img.get_data(to_float=False)  # The current default behavior
>> data = img.get_data(to_float=True)  # Integer arrays automatically
>> cast to float64
>> For this cycle (the nibabel 2.0 series), I propose to raise a warning
>> if you don't pass in an explicit True or False, warning that the
>> default behavior for nibabel 3.0 will change from `to_float=False` to
>> `to_float=True`.
>> The other, more fancy ways of getting the image data would continue as
>> they are, such as:
>> data = np.array(img.dataobj)
>> data = img.dataobj[:]
>> These will both return ints or floats depending on the raw data dtype
>> and the scalefactors.  This is on the basis that people using these
>> will be more advanced and so therefore more likely to want memory
>> efficiency at the expense of having to be careful about the returned
>> data dtype.
>> Does this seem reasonable to y'all?    Thoughts, suggestions?
> Overall I am all for reducing a possibility for users shotting
> themselves in a foot.  But this API change would still conflate two
> (related) issues here:  memory mapping and casting.  May be there is a
> way to clear it up?  Sorry for not providing an answer but at
> least let me share the use case(s):
> with to_float=True it would then keep memory mapping float .nii
> while int .nii would get casted.  So it would remain somewhat obfuscated
> when data gets memmapped and when not.  In our (PyMVPA) case we don't
> really care about correct offset/scale in many cases (data gets zscored
> anyways per each voxel later on with appropriate casting if necessary).

Yes, that's true, you would have to know the algorithm to know whether
nibabel was going to memmap or not.   That's true now though - for
example, it never memory maps compressed files.  The difference for
memory mapping is that, the memory mapping no longer depends on the
scalefactors for the int case.

You can always specify no memory mapping with ``mmap=False``, if you
need it to be predictable.

> Now, even with "explicit" to_float=False I would then get a warning.

No, my idea was that you only get a warning if you do not give a value
for "to_float".   It will be a bit annoying though, because you either
have to live with the warning, or depend on nibabel > 2.1 .

> I
> guess we would just need to switch to your explicit img.dataobj  way to
> access the data?

If you like the current behavior and you don't want a warning, that's
the best way, I think.



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