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Invasive Methods for Tracing White Matter Architecture 

Invasive Methods for Tracing White Matter Architecture
Invasive Methods for Tracing White Matter Architecture

Hubertus Axer

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date: 21 January 2019

While the development of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) has led to an increased interest in connectivity of the human brain, several non-MRI methods for two- (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) measurement of structural and functional anatomy of brain white matter exist, as neuroanatomists have been engaged in the description of nerve fiber architecture for more than a century. Neuroanatomical methods range from macroscopic to microscopic to functional applications. Morphological methods comprise Klingler's fiber dissection technique, light microscopy of myelin-stained sections, confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) to image 3D fiber architecture, high-resolution electron microscopy of nerve fibers, and stereological methods to quantitatively analyze numbers of nerve fibers. Polarized light imaging is used to estimate 3D fiber orientation in gross histological sections of the brain. Connectivity can be studied using tract-tracing methods based on active and passive axonal transport mechanisms. Detection of Wallerian degeneration can also be used to study connectivity, and studies of myelogentic development can give insight into developing fiber tracts. However, the application of these methods is time consuming, and reliability depends on the skills and experience of the laboratory. Each method only provides a selective view of the object, i.e., connectivity, number of fibers, and fiber orientation. The new challenge of exploring human central nervous fiber architecture is the advance of MRI methods to investigate the white matter of the living brain.

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