Viscoelastic mapping of mouse brain tissue: Relation to structure and age

J Mech Behav Biomed Mater. 2021 Jan:113:104159. doi: 10.1016/j.jmbbm.2020.104159. Epub 2020 Oct 28.


There is growing evidence that mechanical factors affect brain functioning. However, brain components responsible for regulating the physiological mechanical environment are not completely understood. To determine the relationship between structure and stiffness of brain tissue, we performed high-resolution viscoelastic mapping by dynamic indentation of the hippocampus and the cerebellum of juvenile mice brains, and quantified relative area covered by neurons (NeuN-staining), axons (neurofilament NN18-staining), astrocytes (GFAP-staining), myelin (MBP-staining) and nuclei (Hoechst-staining) of juvenile and adult mouse brain slices. Results show that brain subregions have distinct viscoelastic parameters. In gray matter (GM) regions, the storage modulus correlates negatively with the relative area of nuclei and neurons, and positively with astrocytes. The storage modulus also correlates negatively with the relative area of myelin and axons (high cell density regions are excluded). Furthermore, adult brain regions are ∼ 20%-150% stiffer than the comparable juvenile regions which coincide with increase in astrocyte GFAP-staining. Several linear regression models are examined to predict the mechanical properties of the brain tissue based on (immuno)histochemical stainings.

Keywords: Biomechanical testing; Brain mechanics; Brain tissue; Maturation; Microstructure; Viscoelasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons
  • Brain*
  • Gray Matter
  • Mice
  • Myelin Sheath*
  • Neurons