Optimal-flow minimum-cost correspondence assignment in particle flow tracking

Alexandre Matov, Marcus M. Edvall, Ge Yang, Gaudenz Danuser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


A diversity of tracking problems exists in which cohorts of densely packed particles move in an organized fashion, however the stability of individual particles within the cohort is low. Moreover, the flows of cohorts can regionally overlap. Together, these conditions yield a complex tracking scenario that cannot be addressed by optical flow techniques that assume piecewise coherent flows, or by multi-particle tracking techniques that suffer from the local ambiguity in particle assignment. Here, we propose a graph-based assignment of particles in three consecutive frames to recover from image sequences the instantaneous organized motion of groups of particles, i.e. flows. The algorithm makes no a priori assumptions on the fraction of particles participating in organized movement, as this number continuously alters with the evolution of the flow fields in time. Graph-based assignment methods generally maximize the number of acceptable particles assignments between consecutive frames and only then minimize the association cost. In dense and unstable particle flow fields this approach produces many false positives. The here proposed approach avoids this via solution of a multi-objective optimization problem in which the number of assignments is maximized while their total association cost is minimized. The method is validated on standard benchmark data for particle tracking. In addition, we demonstrate its application to live cell microscopy where several large molecular populations with different behaviors are tracked.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-540
Number of pages10
JournalComputer Vision and Image Understanding
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Graph algorithms
  • Multi-directional flows
  • Multi-objective optimization
  • Particle tracking
  • Vector field

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Signal Processing
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition


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