A standardized method for the construction of tracer specific PET and SPECT rat brain templates: validation and implementation of a toolbox

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 30;10(3):e0122363. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0122363. eCollection 2015.


High-resolution anatomical image data in preclinical brain PET and SPECT studies is often not available, and inter-modality spatial normalization to an MRI brain template is frequently performed. However, this procedure can be challenging for tracers where substantial anatomical structures present limited tracer uptake. Therefore, we constructed and validated strain- and tracer-specific rat brain templates in Paxinos space to allow intra-modal registration. PET [18F]FDG, [11C]flumazenil, [11C]MeDAS, [11C]PK11195 and [11C]raclopride, and SPECT [99mTc]HMPAO brain scans were acquired from healthy male rats. Tracer-specific templates were constructed by averaging the scans, and by spatial normalization to a widely used MRI-based template. The added value of tracer-specific templates was evaluated by quantification of the residual error between original and realigned voxels after random misalignments of the data set. Additionally, the impact of strain differences, disease uptake patterns (focal and diffuse lesion), and the effect of image and template size on the registration errors were explored. Mean registration errors were 0.70 ± 0.32 mm for [18F]FDG (n = 25), 0.23 ± 0.10mm for [11C]flumazenil (n = 13), 0.88 ± 0.20 mm for [11C]MeDAS (n = 15), 0.64 ± 0.28 mm for [11C]PK11195 (n = 19), 0.34 ± 0.15 mm for [11C]raclopride (n = 6), and 0.40 ± 0.13 mm for [99mTc]HMPAO (n = 15). These values were smallest with tracer-specific templates, when compared to the use of [18F]FDG as reference template (p<0.001). Additionally, registration errors were smallest with strain-specific templates (p<0.05), and when images and templates had the same size (p ≤ 0.001). Moreover, highest registration errors were found for the focal lesion group (p<0.005) and the diffuse lesion group (p = n.s.). In the voxel-based analysis, the reported coordinates of the focal lesion model are consistent with the stereotaxic injection procedure. The use of PET/SPECT strain- and tracer-specific templates allows accurate registration of functional rat brain data, independent of disease specific uptake patterns and with registration error below spatial resolution of the cameras. The templates and the SAMIT package will be freely available for the research community [corrected].

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / administration & dosage
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • Raclopride / administration & dosage
  • Radioisotopes / administration & dosage
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / administration & dosage
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Technetium Tc 99m Exametazime / administration & dosage
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon / methods


  • Radioisotopes
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Technetium Tc 99m Exametazime
  • Raclopride

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.