Mammalian brain has repeated structures at both sides of the median plane, although some asymmetries have been described even under normal conditions. Characterizing normal patterns of asymmetry in mouse brain is important to recognize features that depart from expected ranges in the most widely used mammalian model. Analyses on brain morphology based on magnetic resonance image (MRI) have largely focused on volumes while less is known about shape asymmetry. We introduce a flexible protocol based on geometric morphometrics to assess patterns of asymmetry in shape and size of mouse brain from microMRI scans. After systematic digitization of landmarks and semilandmarks, we combine multivariate methods for statistical analyses with visualization tools to display the results. No preliminary treatment of the images (e.g. space normalization) is needed to collect data on MRI slices and visual representations improve the interpretation of the results. Results indicated that the protocol is highly repeatable. Asymmetry was more evident for shape than for size. Particularly, fluctuating asymmetry accounted for more variation than directional asymmetry in all brain regions. Since this approach can detect subtle shape variation between sides, it is a promising methodology to explore morphological changes in the brain of model organisms and can be applied in future studies addressing the effect of genetic and environmental factors on brain morphology.
Keywords: Hippocampus; Landmarks and semilandmarks; MicroMRI; Procrustes ANOVA; Shape asymmetry.
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