Quantitative analysis of cell columns in the cerebral cortex

J Neurosci Methods. 2000 Apr 1;97(1):7-17. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0270(99)00192-2.


We present a quantified imaging method that describes the cell column in mammalian cortex. The minicolumn is an ideal template with which to examine cortical organization because it is a basic unit of function, complete in itself, which interacts with adjacent and distance columns to form more complex levels of organization. The subtle details of columnar anatomy should reflect physiological changes that have occurred in evolution as well as those that might be caused by pathologies in the brain. In this semiautomatic method, images of Nissl-stained tissue are digitized or scanned into a computer imaging system. The software detects the presence of cell columns and describes details of their morphology and of the surrounding space. Columns are detected automatically on the basis of cell-poor and cell-rich areas using a Gaussian distribution. A line is fit to the cell centers by least squares analysis. The line becomes the center of the column from which the precise location of every cell can be measured. On this basis several algorithms describe the distribution of cells from the center line and in relation to the available surrounding space. Other algorithms use cluster analyses to determine the spatial orientation of every column.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Artifacts
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Size
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / ultrastructure
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Microscopy
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Neuropil / physiology
  • Neuropil / ultrastructure
  • Rats