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1.  Comparative neuronal morphology of the cerebellar cortex in afrotherians, carnivores, cetartiodactyls, and primates 
Although the basic morphological characteristics of neurons in the cerebellar cortex have been documented in several species, virtually nothing is known about the quantitative morphological characteristics of these neurons across different taxa. To that end, the present study investigated cerebellar neuronal morphology among eight different, large-brained mammalian species comprising a broad phylogenetic range: afrotherians (African elephant, Florida manatee), carnivores (Siberian tiger, clouded leopard), cetartiodactyls (humpback whale, giraffe) and primates (human, common chimpanzee). Specifically, several neuron types (e.g., stellate, basket, Lugaro, Golgi, and granule neurons; N = 317) of the cerebellar cortex were stained with a modified rapid Golgi technique and quantified on a computer-assisted microscopy system. There was a 64-fold variation in brain mass across species in our sample (from clouded leopard to the elephant) and a 103-fold variation in cerebellar volume. Most dendritic measures tended to increase with cerebellar volume. The cerebellar cortex in these species exhibited the trilaminate pattern common to all mammals. Morphologically, neuron types in the cerebellar cortex were generally consistent with those described in primates (Fox et al., 1967) and rodents (Palay and Chan-Palay, 1974), although there was substantial quantitative variation across species. In particular, Lugaro neurons in the elephant appeared to be disproportionately larger than those in other species. To explore potential quantitative differences in dendritic measures across species, MARSplines analyses were used to evaluate whether species could be differentiated from each other based on dendritic characteristics alone. Results of these analyses indicated that there were significant differences among all species in dendritic measures.
PMCID: PMC4005950  PMID: 24795574
dendrite; morphometry; Golgi method; brain evolution; cerebellum
2.  Current automated 3D cell detection methods are not a suitable replacement for manual stereologic cell counting 
Stereologic cell counting has had a major impact on the field of neuroscience. A major bottleneck in stereologic cell counting is that the user must manually decide whether or not each cell is counted according to three-dimensional (3D) stereologic counting rules by visual inspection within hundreds of microscopic fields-of-view per investigated brain or brain region. Reliance on visual inspection forces stereologic cell counting to be very labor-intensive and time-consuming, and is the main reason why biased, non-stereologic two-dimensional (2D) “cell counting” approaches have remained in widespread use. We present an evaluation of the performance of modern automated cell detection and segmentation algorithms as a potential alternative to the manual approach in stereologic cell counting. The image data used in this study were 3D microscopic images of thick brain tissue sections prepared with a variety of commonly used nuclear and cytoplasmic stains. The evaluation compared the numbers and locations of cells identified unambiguously and counted exhaustively by an expert observer with those found by three automated 3D cell detection algorithms: nuclei segmentation from the FARSIGHT toolkit, nuclei segmentation by 3D multiple level set methods, and the 3D object counter plug-in for ImageJ. Of these methods, FARSIGHT performed best, with true-positive detection rates between 38 and 99% and false-positive rates from 3.6 to 82%. The results demonstrate that the current automated methods suffer from lower detection rates and higher false-positive rates than are acceptable for obtaining valid estimates of cell numbers. Thus, at present, stereologic cell counting with manual decision for object inclusion according to unbiased stereologic counting rules remains the only adequate method for unbiased cell quantification in histologic tissue sections.
PMCID: PMC4019880  PMID: 24847213
automated cell segmentation; disector; FARSIGHT; Fractionator; ImageJ; stereology; stem cells
4.  Linking White and Grey Matter in Schizophrenia: Oligodendrocyte and Neuron Pathology in the Prefrontal Cortex 
Neuronal circuitry relies to a large extent on the presence of functional myelin produced in the brain by oligodendrocytes. Schizophrenia has been proposed to arise partly from altered brain connectivity. Brain imaging and neuropathologic studies have revealed changes in white matter and reduction in myelin content in patients with schizophrenia. In particular, alterations in the directionality and alignment of axons have been documented in schizophrenia. Moreover, the expression levels of several myelin-related genes are decreased in postmortem brains obtained from patients with schizophrenia. These findings have led to the formulation of the oligodendrocyte/myelin dysfunction hypothesis of schizophrenia. In this review, we present a brief overview of the neuropathologic findings obtained on white matter and oligodendrocyte status observed in schizophrenia patients, and relate these changes to the processes of brain maturation and myelination. We also review recent data on oligodendrocyte/myelin genes, and present some recent mouse models of myelin deficiencies. The use of transgenic and mutant animal models offers a unique opportunity to analyze oligodendrocyte and neuronal changes that may have a clinical impact. Lastly, we present some recent morphological findings supporting possible causal involvement of white and grey matter abnormalities, in the aim of determining the morphologic characteristics of the circuits whose alteration leads to the cortical dysfunction that possibly underlies the pathogenesis of schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC2713751  PMID: 19636386
myelin; myelin-related genes; development; anterior cingulate cortex; cingulum bundle
5.  Mixed Electrical–Chemical Synapses in Adult Rat Hippocampus are Primarily Glutamatergic and Coupled by Connexin-36 
Dendrodendritic electrical signaling via gap junctions is now an accepted feature of neuronal communication in mammalian brain, whereas axodendritic and axosomatic gap junctions have rarely been described. We present ultrastructural, immunocytochemical, and dye-coupling evidence for “mixed” (electrical/chemical) synapses on both principal cells and interneurons in adult rat hippocampus. Thin-section electron microscopic images of small gap junction-like appositions were found at mossy fiber (MF) terminals on thorny excrescences of CA3 pyramidal neurons (CA3pyr), apparently forming glutamatergic mixed synapses. Lucifer Yellow injected into weakly fixed CA3pyr was detected in MF axons that contacted four injected CA3pyr, supporting gap junction-mediated coupling between those two types of principal cells. Freeze-fracture replica immunogold labeling revealed diverse sizes and morphologies of connexin-36-containing gap junctions throughout hippocampus. Of 20 immunogold-labeled gap junctions, seven were large (328–1140 connexons), three of which were consistent with electrical synapses between interneurons; but nine were at axon terminal synapses, three of which were immediately adjacent to distinctive glutamate receptor-containing postsynaptic densities, forming mixed glutamatergic synapses. Four others were adjacent to small clusters of immunogold-labeled 10-nm E-face intramembrane particles, apparently representing extrasynaptic glutamate receptor particles. Gap junctions also were on spines in stratum lucidum, stratum oriens, dentate gyrus, and hilus, on both interneurons and unidentified neurons. In addition, one putative GABAergic mixed synapse was found in thin-section images of a CA3pyr, but none were found by immunogold labeling, suggesting the rarity of GABAergic mixed synapses. Cx36-containing gap junctions throughout hippocampus suggest the possibility of reciprocal modulation of electrical and chemical signals in diverse hippocampal neurons.
PMCID: PMC3351785  PMID: 22615687
CA3; dentate gyrus; interneuron; pyramidal neuron; principal cell; mossy fiber; gap junction
6.  A Comparative Perspective on Minicolumns and Inhibitory GABAergic Interneurons in the Neocortex 
Neocortical columns are functional and morphological units whose architecture may have been under selective evolutionary pressure in different mammalian lineages in response to encephalization and specializations of cognitive abilities. Inhibitory interneurons make a substantial contribution to the morphology and distribution of minicolumns within the cortex. In this context, we review differences in minicolumns and GABAergic interneurons among species and discuss possible implications for signaling among and within minicolumns. Furthermore, we discuss how abnormalities of both minicolumn disposition and inhibitory interneurons might be associated with neuropathological processes, such as Alzheimer's disease, autism, and schizophrenia. Specifically, we explore the possibility that phylogenetic variability in calcium-binding protein-expressing interneuron subtypes is directly related to differences in minicolumn morphology among species and might contribute to neuropathological susceptibility in humans.
PMCID: PMC2820381  PMID: 20161991
calcium-binding proteins; calbindin; calretinin; parvalbumin; neuropathology; evolution
8.  In Vivo 3D Digital Atlas Database of the Adult C57BL/6J Mouse Brain by Magnetic Resonance Microscopy 
In this study, a 3D digital atlas of the live mouse brain based on magnetic resonance microscopy (MRM) is presented. C57BL/6J adult mouse brains were imaged in vivo on a 9.4 Tesla MR instrument at an isotropic spatial resolution of 100 μm. With sufficient signal-to-noise (SNR) and contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR), 20 brain regions were identified. Several atlases were constructed including 12 individual brain atlases, an average atlas, a probabilistic atlas and average geometrical deformation maps. We also investigated the feasibility of using lower spatial resolution images to improve time efficiency for future morphological phenotyping. All of the new in vivo data were compared to previous published in vitro C57BL/6J mouse brain atlases and the morphological differences were characterized. Our analyses revealed significant volumetric as well as unexpected geometrical differences between the in vivo and in vitro brain groups which in some instances were predictable (e.g. collapsed and smaller ventricles in vitro) but not in other instances. Based on these findings we conclude that although in vitro datasets, compared to in vivo images, offer higher spatial resolutions, superior SNR and CNR, leading to improved image segmentation, in vivo atlases are likely to be an overall better geometric match for in vivo studies, which are necessary for longitudinal examinations of the same animals and for functional brain activation studies. Thus the new in vivo mouse brain atlas dataset presented here is a valuable complement to the current mouse brain atlas collection and will be accessible to the neuroscience community on our public domain mouse brain atlas website.
PMCID: PMC2525925  PMID: 18958199
in vivo mouse brain atlas; magnetic resonance microscopy; mouse brain morphometry; image registration

Results 1-8 (8)