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
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.
Fig.1 Golgi stained neuron pyramidal cell of a cat. (Glickstein, 2006)
- Genetically encoded markers
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.
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.
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.
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- Glickstein, Mitch. Golgi and Cajal: The neuron doctrine and the 100th anniversary of the 1906 Nobel Prize. Current Biology. 2006, 16.5: R147-R151.
- Pollock, Jonathan D.; et al. Molecular neuroanatomy: a generation of progress. Trends in neurosciences. 2014, 37.2: 106-123.