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BIDS for MATLAB / Octave

This repository aims at centralising MATLAB/Octave tools to interact with datasets conforming to the BIDS (Brain Imaging Data Structure) format.

For more information about BIDS, visit https://bids.neuroimaging.io/.

Join our chat on the BIDS-MATLAB channel on the brainhack mattermost and our google group.

See also PyBIDS for Python and the BIDS Starter Kit.


Download, unzip this repository and add its content to the MATLAB/Octave path.


Or clone it with git:

git clone https://github.com/bids-standard/bids-matlab.git

and then add it to your MATLAB/Octave path.


Get the latest features

The latest features of bids-matlab that are in development are in our dev “branch”.

To access them you can either download the dev branch from there: https://github.com/bids-standard/bids-matlab/tree/dev

Or you can check it out the dev branch after the adding this official bids-matlab repository as a remote.

git add remote upstream https://github.com/bids-standard/bids-matlab.git
git checkout upstream/dev


What this toolbox can do

  • read the layout of a BIDS dataset (see bids.layout),

  • perform queries on that layout to get information about the subjects, sessions, runs, modalities, metadata… contained within that dataset (see bids.query),

  • parse the layout of “BIDS-derivative compatible” datasets (like those generated by fMRIprep),

  • create BIDS compatible filenames or folder structures for raw or derivatives datasets (bids.File, bids.util.mkdir, bids.dataset_description),

  • do basic copying of files to help initialize a derivative dataset to start a new analysis (bids.copy_to_derivative),

  • generate a human readable report of the content of BIDS data set containing anatomical MRI, functional MRI, diffusion weighted imaging, field map data (see bids.report)

  • read and write JSON files (see bids.util.jsondecode and bids.util.jsonwrite) provided that the right dependencies are installed,

  • read and write TSV files (see bids.util.tsvread and bids.util.tsvwrite)

  • access and query the BIDS schema (bids.schema)

The behavior of this toolbox assumes that it is interacting with a valid BIDS dataset that should have been validated using BIDS-validator. If the Node.js version of the validator is installed on your computer, you can call it from the matlab prompt using bids.validate. Just be aware that any unvalidated components may produce undefined behavior. Although, if you’re BIDS-y enough, the behavior may be predictable.

What this toolbox cannot do… yet

  • generate human readable reports of the content of BIDS data with EEG, MEG, iEEG, physio and events data,

  • deal with some of the incoming BIDS extensions (BIDS model…)

What will this toolbox most likely never do

  • act as a Matlab / Octave based BIDS-validator

  • act as a BIDS converter

  • implement reading / writing capabilities for the different modality-specific data format that exist in BIDS (.nii, .eeg, .ds, .fif…)


BIDS matlab is structured as package, so you can easily access functions in subfolders that start with +.

To use the +bids/layout.m function:

BIDS = bids.layout('/home/data/ds000117');
bids.query(BIDS, 'subjects')

To use the +bids/+util/jsondecode.m function:

content = bids.util.jsondecode('/home/data/some_json_file.json');

A tutorial is available as a Jupyter Notebook and can be run interactively via Binder.


BIDS-MATLAB works with:

  • Octave 5.2.0 or newer

  • MATLAB R2014a or newer

We aim for compatibility with the latest stable release of Octave at any time. Compatibility can sometimes also be achieved with older versions of Octave but this is not guaranteed.

Reading and writing JSON files

If you are using MATLAB R2016b or newer, nothing else needs to be installed.

If you are using MATLAB R2016a or older, or using Octave, you need to install a supported JSON library for your MATLAB or Octave. This can be any of:


Starting point was spm_BIDS.m from SPM12 (documentation) reformatted in a +bids package with dependencies to other SPM functions removed.

Other tools (MATLAB only)

Contributors ✨

Thanks goes to these wonderful people (emoji key):


💻 🎨 📖 💡 🤔 🚇 🚧 💬 👀 ⚠️

Remi Gau

💻 🎨 📖 💡 🤔 🚧 💬 👀 ⚠️

Andrew Janke

💻 🎨 📖 🤔 👀 🚇


💻 📖 🤔

Robert Oostenveld

💻 📖 🤔 👀

Christopher Madan


Julia Guiomar Niso Galán


Michał Szczepanik

🚇 🤔 💻

Henk Mutsaerts

💻 🤔

Nikita Beliy

💻 🤔 👀

Martin Norgaard

🐛 🤔

Cyril Pernet

💻 🤔

Christophe Phillips




This project follows the all-contributors specification. Contributions of any kind welcome!