Part of the Oxford Instruments Group

Torch™ | Discover the Innovative New Imaging Tool from Imaris | Technology Article

Case Study

Advances in brain and nervous system imaging are now providing neuroscientists with unprecedented benefits in the study of neuron structure in health and disease. Advanced microscopy and labelling techniques can now visualize brain structure at cellular resolution and the tracing of neural pathways in the brain is not just a future hope, it is a reality. With powerful imaging tools comes a huge amount of data and this can often amount to terabytes in the visualization of an entire brain or nervous system. One of the great challenges facing researchers is the tracing of interconnecting dendrites, spines and neurons in the midst of a dense and highly complex neural network where structures often overlap and can obscure the area of interest. As part of the development advanced image processing methods for neuron analysis, Bitplane (Oxford Instruments Company), the 2-4D image visualization and analysis experts, have recently launched their latest version of Imaris (8.4). This has been designed to process large data set images and includes a number of tools dedicated to tracing complex neural pathways, including Autopath, which can calculate the best fitting route along a neural pathway and display the image, and Autodepth, which allows manual filament tracing in a complex network image. Torch™ is a new image visualization methodology, which significantly enhances perception in densely populated images and helps to disambiguate overlapping structures.

What is Torch™?

Torch™ has the ability to intuitively highlight 3D structures in close proximity to the cursor while darkening the rest of the image. This can even be used in conjunction with both Autopath and Autodepth and enables the user to more efficiently and accurately trace individual neurons contained within dense and thick samples that would otherwise be difficult to analyse. Torch autosnaps to the nearest filament structure and the illuminated region adapts to the direction of the tracing and projects like a flashlight ahead of the path that is being traced. The improved depth visibility provided by Torch™ makes the process of tracing within thick samples easier. Even within terabyte-sized datasets Torch™ can be used to focus on an area of interest, the size of area illuminated can be increased or decreased easily in user preferences and by using the mouse wheel. Torch™ is a unique volume visualization approach, which will be a significant help to users allowing them to easily follow neural structures by manipulating the image contrast in a localized set area. The benefits of the patented Torch tool include:

  • Highlights structures in close proximity to the tracing cursor
  • Darkens background for improved visibility of the highlighted region
  • Facilitates tracing in dense neural networks
  • Available for both Autopath and Autodepth tracing methods
  • Makes tracing much faster and more efficient than ever before

Using Torch™

The process of manual neural tracing can be difficult and time consuming and good image processing is critical. Filaments are long-thin structures and users commonly draw lines by using the mouse along the filament structure of interest based upon volume data. At the start the drawing is likely to be clearly visualized but during the drawing the filament structure might be obscured or overlapped and the drawing process has to be halted while the image is manipulated.


Torch is a practical solution as it allows the user to follow the path and highlight areas of interest in a continuous tracing process across the entire pathway. Torch™ provides an enhanced ‘eye-view’ to highlight areas of interest and follow them right across the image. At a recent launch event Anna Paszulewicz, Product Specialist at Bitplane, said “With our new, innovative Torch™ tool, dynamically adjusted depth visibility and significantly improved big data handling at a terabyte level, 3D neuron tracing with Imaris is a wonderfully unique experience for all who are privileged to use it.”

Category: Case Study

Download as pdf


Related assets