Defining standard and nonstandard spaces where data will be resampled

The command line interface of fMRIPrep allows resampling the preprocessed data onto other output spaces. That is achieved using the --output-spaces argument, where standard and nonstandard spaces can be inserted.


fMRIPrep will reduce the amount of output spaces to just spaces listed in --output-spaces, even if other options require resampling the preprocessed data into intermediary spaces.


TemplateFlow is a software library and a repository of neuroimaging templates that allows end-user applications such as fMRIPrep to flexibly query and pull template and atlas information. In other words, TemplateFlow enables fMRIPrep to access a wide range of templates (and also custom templates, see below). Therefore, TemplateFlow is central to define fMRIPrep’s interface regarding template and atlas prior-knowledge. For more general information about TemplateFlow, visit

Standard spaces

When using fMRIPrep in a workflow that will investigate effects that span across analytical groupings, neuroimagers typically resample their data on to a standard, stereotactic coordinate system. The most extended standard space for fMRI analyses is generally referred to MNI. For instance, to instruct fMRIPrep to use the MNI template brain distributed with FSL as coordinate reference the option will read as follows: --output-spaces MNI152NLin6Asym. By default, fMRIPrep uses MNI152NLin2009cAsym as spatial-standardization reference. Valid template identifiers (MNI152NLin6Asym, MNI152NLin2009cAsym, etc.) come from the TemplateFlow repository.

Therefore, fMRIPrep will run nonlinear registration processes against the template T1w image corresponding to all the standard spaces supplied with the argument --output-spaces. By default, fMRIPrep will resample the preprocessed data on those spaces (labeling the corresponding outputs with the space-<template-identifier> BIDS entity) but keeping the original resolution of the BOLD data to produce smaller files, more consistent with the original data gridding. However, many users will be interested in utilizing a coarse gridding (typically 2mm isotropic) of the target template. Such a behavior can be achieved applying modifiers to the template identifier, separated by a : character. For instance, --output-spaces MNI152NLin6Asym:res-2 MNI152NLin2009cAsym will generate preprocessed BOLD 4D files on two standard spaces (MNI152NLin6Asym, and MNI152NLin2009cAsym) with the template’s 2mm isotropic resolution for the data on MNI152NLin6Asym space and the original BOLD resolution (say, e.g., 2x2x2.5 [mm]) for the case of MNI152NLin2009cAsym. This is equivalent to saying --output-spaces MNI152NLin6Asym:res-2 MNI152NLin2009cAsym:res-native.


Please remember that the resolution entity of TemplateFlow is an index, and therefore, res-2 does not necessarily mean 2mm3 - although, it coincidentally does in the example above. However, it may not be the case. For instance, MNI152NLin6Asym:res-3 contains a template with isotropic voxels of 0.5mm3.

Other possible modifiers are, for instance, the cohort selector. For instance, --output-spaces MNIPediatricAsym:res-1:cohort-2 selects the resolution 1 of cohort-2 which, for the MNIPediatricAsym template, corresponds to the prepuberty phase (4.5–8.5 years old).

Space modifiers such as res are combinatorial: --output-spaces MNIPediatricAsym:cohort-1:cohort-2:res-native:res-1 will generate conversions for the following combinations:

  • cohort 1 and “native” resolution (meaning, the original BOLD resolution),

  • cohort 1 and resolution 1 of the template,

  • cohort 2 and “native” resolution (meaning, the original BOLD resolution), and

  • cohort 2 and resolution 1 of the template.

Please mind that the selected resolutions specified must exist within TemplateFlow.

When specifying surface spaces (e.g., fsaverage), the legacy identifiers from FreeSurfer will be supported (e.g., fsaverage5) although the use of the density modifier would be preferred (i.e., fsaverage:den-10k for fsaverage5).

Custom standard spaces

To make your custom templates visible by fMRIPrep, and usable via the --output-spaces argument, please store your template under TemplateFlow’s home directory. The default TemplateFlow’s home directory is $HOME/.cache/templateflow and that can path can be arbitrarily changed by setting the $TEMPLATEFLOW_HOME environment variable. A minimal example of the necessary files for a template called MyCustom (and therefore callable via, e.g., --output-spaces MyCustom) follows:


For further information about how custom templates must be organized and corresponding naming, please check the TemplateFlow tutorials.

Nonstandard spaces

Additionally, --output-spaces accepts identifiers of spatial references that do not generate standardized coordinate spaces:

  • T1w or anat: data are resampled into the individual’s anatomical reference generated with the T1w and T2w images available within the BIDS structure.

  • fsnative: similarly to the anat space for volumetric references, including the fsnative space will instruct fMRIPrep to sample the original BOLD data onto FreeSurfer’s reconstructed surfaces for this individual.

  • func, bold, run, boldref or sbref can be used to generate BOLD data in their original grid, after slice-timing, head-motion, and susceptibility-distortion corrections. These keywords are experimental, and expected to change because additional nonstandard spaces are currently being discussed here.

Modifiers are not allowed when providing nonstandard spaces.

Preprocessing blocks depending on standard templates

Some modules of the pipeline (e.g., the ICA-AROMA denoising, the generation of HCP compatible grayordinates files, or the fieldmap-less distortion correction) operate in specific template spaces. When selecting those modules to be included (using any of the following flags: --use-aroma, --cifti-outputs, --use-syn-sdc) will modify the list of internal spaces to include the space identifiers they require, should the identifier not be found within the --output-spaces list already. In other words, running fMRIPrep with --output-spaces MNI152NLin6Asym:res-2 --use-syn-sdc will expand the list of resampling spaces to be MNI152NLin6Asym:res-2 MNI152NLin2009cAsym. However, these spaces that are added implicitly will not be saved to the derivatives directory.