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Opt Express. 2009 Mar 16;17(6):4685-704.

Accurate detection and complete tracking of large populations of features in three dimensions.

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Department of Physics, McGill University, Montréal, Canada.


Localization and tracking of colloidal particles in microscopy images generates the raw data necessary to understand both the dynamics and the mechanical properties of colloidal model systems. Yet, despite the obvious importance of analyzing particle movement in three dimensions (3D), accurate sub-pixel localization of the particles in 3D has received little attention so far. Tracking has been limited by the choice of whether to track all particles in a low-density system, or whether to neglect the most mobile fraction of particles in a dense system. Moreover, assertions are frequently made on the accuracies of methods for locating particles in colloid physics and in biology, and the field of particle locating and tracking can be well-served by quantitative comparison of relative performances. We show that by iterating sub-pixel localization in three dimensions, the centers of particles can be more accurately located in three-dimensions (3D) than with all previous methods by at least half an order of magnitude. In addition, we show that implementing a multi-pass deflation approach, greater fidelity can be achieved in reconstruction of trajectories, once particle positions are known. In general, all future work must defend the accuracy of the particle tracks to be considered reliable. Specifically, other researchers must use the methods presented here (or an alternative whose accuracy can be substantianted) in order for the entire investigation to be considered legitimate, if the basis of the physical argument (in colloids, biology, or any other application) depends on quantitative accuracy of particle positions. We compare our algorithms to other recent and related advances in location/tracking in colloids and in biology, and discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of all the algorithms in various situations. We carry out performance tests directly comparing the accuracy of our and other 3D methods with simulated data for both location and tracking, and in providing relative performance data, we assess just how accurately software can locate particles. We discuss how our methods, now applied to colloids, could improve the location and tracking of features such as quantum dots in cells.

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