Cortical development is associated with a series of events that involve axon and dendrite growth and synaptic formation. Although these developmental processes have been investigated in detail with histology, three-dimensional and quantitative imaging methods for rodent brains may be useful for genetic and pharmacological studies in which cortical developmental abnormalities are suspected. It has been shown that diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) can delineate the columnar organization of the fetal and early neonatal cortex based on a high degree of diffusion anisotropy along the columnar structures. This anisotropy is known to decrease during brain development. In this study, we applied DTI to developing rat brains at five developmental stages, postnatal days 0, 3, 7, 11 and 19, and used diffusion anisotropy as an index to characterize the structural change. Statistical analysis reveals four distinctive cortical areas that demonstrate a characteristic time course of anisotropy loss. This method may provide a means to delineate specific cortical areas and a quantitative method to detect abnormalities in cortical development in rodent pathological models.
- Magnetic resonance imaging
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