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Monday, November 1, 2010

Atlas of ultra-high-resolution mouse brain

Researchers from Duke University and from Drexel University have created an ultra-high resolution atlas of the mouse brain. These images, which are available for free online, are more than 300,000 times sharper than typical MRI scans.

The improvement is largely due to the drastically reduced size of the voxels. Voxels (volumetric pixels or volumetric picture elements) are the 3D version of the pixel. For the purposes of medical scans, they represent a tiny chunk of the tissue under study. In conventional MRI, each voxel is about a millimeter across, but with the new technique, the voxels are only 20 micrometers long, a hundred-fold difference in each direction. Unlike with other scanning techniques, which can require drying and slicing, the mouse brains in this atlas could be stained and photographed within their craniums, further limiting distortion. The entire atlas is compiled in the Waxholm Space brain, which can be downloaded for free.

The neuroscientists envision using the new data to view precise changes in brain shape and chemistry following chemical or emotional stimuli. The brains of genetically distinct individuals could be precisely compared after specific treatments.

The image on the left is a conventional (optical) histology image. The middle panel is an unstained slice using the new technique, and the third panel provides color labels for the structures.

Credit: G. Allan Johnson, Duke Center for In Vivo Microscopy

Caption: Multiply stained high resolution 3D images of a mouse brain.

Credit: G. Allan Johnson, Duke Center for In Vivo Microscopy