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Neuroanatomy Methods

Neuroanatomy Methods

What is Neuroanatomy?

Neuroanatomy is the study to investigate the structure of the nervous system and its relationship to its function. Generally, neuroanatomy involves two parts, the macroscopic neural structures, and the microscopic ones. The macroscopic neural structures are large things, like the cerebral cortex and the medulla spinalis. On the contrary, microscopic neural structures are things at molecular and cellular levels, as the relationship between synapse and neurons.

Events on Neuroanatomy

  • The first study of neuroanatomy is recorded on an ancient Egyptian document named Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus about 1600 BC.
  • It was Alcmaeon, a Greek philosopher, who first declared that it is the brain, but the heart controls the body and the senses around 500 BC.
  • Herophilus is the first man who distinguished the motor from the sensory nerves and described the network of nerve cells about 300 BC.
  • In the late 16th century, neuroanatomical research began to speed up with the invention of the microscope.
  • In 1664 Thomas Willis, a professor and neuroanatomist of Oxford University has published a text Cerebri Anatome, which is deemed to be the basic text of neuroanatomy and the origination of the new term neurology.
  • In 1865, the nerve cell was described with a soma prolonged the dendrites and axon by Deiters, which is just like what it is described today.
  • In 1873, a new staining technique was introduced for observing single neurons under the microscope by the research of Camillo Golgi.
  • In 1888, Santiago Ramón proved that neurons are the functional signaling units of the nervous system and the neurons are connected in precise ways.
  • In 1909, the cerebral cortex was divided into 52 distinct areas by Korbinian Brodmann, as different areas have different cytoarchitecture.
  • Tools of Neuroanatomical Research

    As the past research shows, the developments of neuroanatomy rely on the technologies used to perform research. Scientists have developed many techniques specifically for the study of neuroanatomy.

    • Cell staining
    • Cell staining can be used to enhance the contrast of features in microscopic images in the nervous system. Golgi stain is a technique that uses tanning chemicals to stain the nerve cells in brown and black. It helps researchers to observe the structure of the cell body, dendrites, and axons.

    Golgi stained neuron pyramidal cell of a cat. Fig.1 Golgi stained neuron pyramidal cell of a cat. (Glickstein, 2006)

    • Histochemistry
    • Histochemistry is a technique that uses selective chemical reactions to visualize the specific areas or cells in the nervous system. For example, neurons have been observed in their connections with the nervous system by this technique.

    • Genetically encoded markers
    • Some neurons can be distinguished from other unique ones with fluorescence microscopy through a method of expressing various kinds of fluorescent proteins in the brain. These so-called Genetically encoded markers help researchers to study the connections between neurons.

    GFP and RFP labeled neurons. Fig.2 GFP and RFP labeled neurons. (Pollock, 2014)

    • Non-invasive brain imaging
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is one of the most frequently used non-invasive brain imaging methods to study the structure and function of the brain. With this technique, the structures of axons can be inferred from the diffusion of water around the axons.

    Neuroanatomy and Diseases

    Research has suggested that with the neuroanatomical method, structure changes in cells are usually significantly associated with certain diseases. For example, the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons can be specifically observed in Parkinson’s disease. As a result, neuroanatomical technologies are usually used to compare the structure and activity of neurons in normal and disease tissues.

    Creative Biolabs & Neuroanatomy

    Creative Biolabs is a world-leading company and provides a wide range of products and custom services in the neuroscience research field. With our integrated global platform, we have great potential to accelerate your neuroscience research.

    For more detailed information, please feel free to contact us for detailed information.


    1. Glickstein, Mitch. Golgi and Cajal: The neuron doctrine and the 100th anniversary of the 1906 Nobel Prize. Current Biology. 2006, 16.5: R147-R151.
    2. Pollock, Jonathan D.; et al. Molecular neuroanatomy: a generation of progress. Trends in neurosciences. 2014, 37.2: 106-123.
    For Research Use Only. Not For Clinical Use.
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