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Diffusion tensor magnetic resonance histology reveals microstructural changes in the developing rat brain

Evan Calabrese, G. Allan Johnson
     Center for In Vivo Microscopy, Department of Radiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC
     Biomedical Engineering, Duke University, Durham, NC

Neuroimage 79:329-339, 2013. PMCID: PMC3690820

The postnatal period is a remarkably dynamic period of brain growth and development characterized by large-scale macrostructural changes, as well as dramatic microstructural changes such as myelination and cortical layering. This critical period of neurodevelopment is uniquely susceptible to a wide variety of insults that may lead to neurologic disease. MRI is an important tool for studying both normal and abnormal neurodevelopmental changes, and quantitative imaging strategies like diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) allow visualization of many of the complex microstructural changes that occur during the postnatal period. Diffusion tensor magnetic resonance histology (DT-MRH), the use of high-resolution DTI to study tissue microstructure in fixed specimens, is a powerful technique for studying neurodevelopment in small animal models. In this study, we use DT-MRH to track microstructural changes in the rat brain throughout postnatal neurodevelopment. We provide examples of diffusion tensor parameter changes in both white matter and gray matter structures, and correlate these changes with known microstructural developmental processes. Finally, we provide the entire diffusion parameter database and image set as a reference for future studies using DT-MRH to characterize abnormal neurodevelopment in rodent models of neurodevelopmental disease.

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All work was performed at the Duke Center for In Vivo Microscopy, an NIH/NIBIB Biomedical Technology Resource Center (P41 EB015897). We are grateful to Sally Gewalt and James Cook for assistance with the imaging pipelines; Dr. Yi Qi and Gary Cofer for assistance in specimen preparation and scanning; John Lee and David Joseph Lee for assistance with labeling; and Sally Zimney for assistance in editing.