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nifti1 extension mechanism

extension[4] and nifti1_extension

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nifti1.h header documentation

HEADER EXTENSIONS: ----------------- After the end of the 348 byte header (e.g., after the magic field), the next 4 bytes are a char array field named "extension". By default, all 4 bytes of this array should be set to zero. In a .nii file, these 4 bytes will always be present, since the earliest start point for the image data is byte #352. In a separate .hdr file, these bytes may or may not be present. If not present (i.e., if the length of the .hdr file is 348 bytes), then a NIfTI-1 compliant program should use the default value of extension={0,0,0,0}. The first byte (extension[0]) is the only value of this array that is specified at present. The other 3 bytes are reserved for future use.

If extension[0] is nonzero, it indicates that extended header information is present in the bytes following the extension array. In a .nii file, this extended header data is before the image data (and vox_offset must be set correctly to allow for this). In a .hdr file, this extended data follows extension and proceeds (potentially) to the end of the file.

The format of extended header data is weakly specified. Each extension must be an integer multiple of 16 bytes long. The first 8 bytes of each extension comprise 2 integers: int esize , ecode ; These values may need to be byte-swapped, as indicated by dim[0] for the rest of the header. esize is the number of bytes that form the extended header data + esize must be a positive integral multiple of 16 + this length includes the 8 bytes of esize and ecode themselves ecode is a non-negative integer that indicates the format of the extended header data that follows + different ecode values are assigned to different developer groups + at present, the "registered" values for code are = 0 = unknown private format (not recommended!) = 2 = DICOM format (i.e., attribute tags and values) = 4 = AFNI group (i.e., ASCII XML-ish elements) In the interests of interoperability (a primary rationale for NIfTI), groups developing software that uses this extension mechanism are encouraged to document and publicize the format of their extensions. To this end, the NIfTI DFWG will assign even numbered codes upon request to groups submitting at least rudimentary documentation for the format of their extension; at present, the contact is The assigned codes and documentation will be posted on the NIfTI website. All odd values of ecode (and 0) will remain unassigned; at least, until the even ones are used up, when we get to 2,147,483,646.

Note that the other contents of the extended header data section are totally unspecified by the NIfTI-1 standard. In particular, if binary data is stored in such a section, its byte order is not necessarily the same as that given by examining dim[0]; it is incumbent on the programs dealing with such data to determine the byte order of binary extended header data.

Multiple extended header sections are allowed, each starting with an esize,ecode value pair. The first esize value, as described above, is at bytes #352-355 in the .hdr or .nii file (files start at byte #0). If this value is positive, then the second (esize2) will be found starting at byte #352+esize1 , the third (esize3) at byte #352+esize1+esize2, et cetera. Of course, in a .nii file, the value of vox_offset must be compatible with these extensions. If a malformed file indicates that an extended header data section would run past vox_offset, then the entire extended header section should be ignored. In a .hdr file, if an extended header data section would run past the end-of-file, that extended header data should also be ignored.

With the above scheme, a program can successively examine the esize and ecode values, and skip over each extended header section if the program doesn't know how to interpret the data within. Of course, any program can simply ignore all extended header sections simply by jumping straight to the image data using vox_offset.

Created by Alex Clark
Last modified 2005-04-14 18:42

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