Towards ultra-high resolution fibre tract mapping of the human brain - registration of polarised light images and reorientation of fibre vectors

Front Hum Neurosci. 2010 Apr 23;4:9. doi: 10.3389/neuro.09.009.2010. eCollection 2010.


Polarised light imaging (PLI) utilises the birefringence of the myelin sheaths in order to visualise the orientation of nerve fibres in microtome sections of adult human post-mortem brains at ultra-high spatial resolution. The preparation of post-mortem brains for PLI involves fixation, freezing and cutting into 100-mum-thick sections. Hence, geometrical distortions of histological sections are inevitable and have to be removed for 3D reconstruction and subsequent fibre tracking. We here present a processing pipeline for 3D reconstruction of these sections using PLI derived multimodal images of post-mortem brains. Blockface images of the brains were obtained during cutting; they serve as reference data for alignment and elimination of distortion artefacts. In addition to the spatial image transformation, fibre orientation vectors were reoriented using the transformation fields, which consider both affine and subsequent non-linear registration. The application of this registration and reorientation approach results in a smooth fibre vector field, which reflects brain morphology. PLI combined with 3D reconstruction and fibre tracking is a powerful tool for human brain mapping. It can also serve as an independent method for evaluating in vivo fibre tractography.

Keywords: fibre orientation map; human brain atlas; image registration; polarised light imaging; vector reorientation.