Rapid Golgi analysis method for efficient and unbiased classification of dendritic spines

PLoS One. 2014 Sep 10;9(9):e107591. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107591. eCollection 2014.


Dendritic spines are the primary recipients of excitatory synaptic input in the brain. Spine morphology provides important information on the functional state of ongoing synaptic transmission. One of the most commonly used methods to visualize spines is Golgi-Cox staining, which is appealing both due to ease of sample preparation and wide applicability to multiple species including humans. However, the classification of spines is a time-consuming and often expensive task that yields widely varying results between individuals. Here, we present a novel approach to this analysis technique that uses the unique geometry of different spine shapes to categorize spines on a purely objective basis. This rapid Golgi spine analysis method successfully conveyed the maturational shift in spine types during development in the mouse primary visual cortex. This approach, built upon freely available software, can be utilized by researchers studying a broad range of synaptic connectivity phenotypes in both development and disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendritic Spines / classification*
  • Dendritic Spines / ultrastructure
  • Mice
  • Pattern Recognition, Automated
  • Pyramidal Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Silver Staining / methods*
  • Software*
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Cortex / ultrastructure