Towards Advanced Interactive Visualization for Virtual Atlases

  • Noeska SmitEmail author
  • Stefan Bruckner
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 1156)


An atlas is generally defined as a bound collection of tables, charts or illustrations describing a phenomenon. In an anatomical atlas for example, a collection of representative illustrations and text describes anatomy for the purpose of communicating anatomical knowledge. The atlas serves as reference frame for comparing and integrating data from different sources by spatially or semantically relating collections of drawings, imaging data, and/or text. In the field of medical image processing, atlas information is often constructed from a collection of regions of interest, which are based on medical images that are annotated by domain experts. Such an atlas may be employed, for example, for automatic segmentation of medical imaging data. The combination of interactive visualization techniques with atlas information opens up new possibilities for content creation, curation, and navigation in virtual atlases. With interactive visualization of atlas information, students are able to inspect and explore anatomical atlases in ways that were not possible with the traditional method of presenting anatomical atlases in book format, such as viewing the illustrations from other viewpoints. With advanced interaction techniques, it becomes possible to query the data that forms the basis for the atlas, thus empowering researchers to access a wealth of information in new ways. So far, atlas-based visualization has been employed mainly for medical education, as well as biological research. In this survey, we provide an overview of current digital biomedical atlas tasks and applications and summarize relevant visualization techniques. We discuss recent approaches for providing next-generation visual interfaces to navigate atlas data that go beyond common text-based search and hierarchical lists. Finally, we reflect on open challenges and opportunities for the next steps in interactive atlas visualization.


Biomedical visualization Virtual atlases Interactive visualization Atlases Visualization 



The research presented in this paper was supported by the Trond Mohn Foundation under grant ID BFS2016TMT01 and the MetaVis project (#250133) funded by the Research Council of Norway.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of InformaticsUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  2. 2.Mohn Medical Imaging and Visualization CentreHaukeland University HospitalBergenNorway

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