Brief Introduction of Neuroanatomy
Neuroanatomy studies the structure and organization of the nervous system to deduce and formulate general organizational principles, mechanisms, and structural-functional correlations. It often uses primarily visual techniques to investigate the distinct structures and regions of the nervous system and how they relate to functions, such as thought, learning, memory, sensory, and motor. Neuroanatomists focus on macroscopic structures and microscopic relationships within the central and peripheral nervous systems, and they usually learn from observing how damage or “lesions” to specific brain areas affects behavior or other neural functions. The critical importance of neuroanatomy has been elegantly demonstrated in the clinical diagnosis of various diseases.
Neuroanatomy and Disease Diagnosis
A large number of neurological disorders will cause visible changes of the anatomical brain, although the changes are mostly synaptic, neuronal network, and at cellular level. Therefore, the basic knowledge of neuroanatomy and physiology has been applied to the assessment of a disorder, which can significantly assist the clinical scientist to make a more accurate appraisal of the dysfunctional areas of the nervous system. This correlation between diseases and dysfunctional areas will provide a more rational approach to a definitive diagnosis and ultimately disease control and therapy.
- Neuroanatomic changes in Alzheimer's disease (AD)
- Neuroanatomic changes in schizophrenia
- Neuroanatomic changes in epileptic syndromes
The neuropathological changes of AD include “positive” lesions such as amyloid plaques and cerebral amyloid angiopathy, neurofibrillary tangles, and glial responses, and “negative” lesions such as neuronal and synaptic loss. Moreover, regional temporal lobe cortical changes have great utility in clinical practice for aiding the early diagnosis of neurodegenerative disease.
Schizophrenia patients frequently showed enlarged ventricular system, the third ventricle enlargement, temporal anomalies of the upper comers, and irregularities within the frontal lobes. Moreover, there is a paucity of glial cells in the frontal networks in schizophrenia.
In epilepsy, structural (histological) and functional changes may occur in the hippocampus, for example, selective and extensive hippocampal neuronal loss in CA1 and CA3 regions. In addition, other microanatomical changes in the brain structures have been reported to be related to cognition in epilepsy, including basal ganglia, piriform cortex (PC), gray matter, hypothalamus, etc.
The rapid development of modern biotechnology has greatly promoted the basic research and clinical development of neuroanatomy. Many valuable tools for neuroanatomy have been developed for the elucidation of neuronal circuits and related functions.
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