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Presents diffeomorphic transformations of three-dimensional (3-D) anatomical image data of the macaque occipital lobe and whole brain cryosection imagery and of deep brain structures in human brains as imaged via magnetic resonance imagery. These transformations are generated in a hierarchical manner, accommodating both global and local anatomical detail. The initial low-dimensional registration is accomplished by constraining the transformation to be in a low-dimensional basis. The basis is defined by the Green's function of the elasticity operator placed at predefined locations in the anatomy and the eigenfunctions of the elasticity operator. The high-dimensional large deformations are vector fields generated via the mismatch between the template and target-image volumes constrained to be the solution of a Navier-Stokes fluid model. As part of this procedure, the Jacobian of the transformation is tracked, insuring the generation of diffeomorphisms. It is shown that transformations constrained by quadratic regularization methods such as the Laplacian, biharmonic, and linear elasticity models, do not ensure that the transformation maintains topology and, therefore, must only be used for coarse global registration.