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Cereb Cortex. 2011 Jan;21(1):200-11. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhq084. Epub 2010 May 21.

Developing neocortex organization and connectivity in cats revealed by direct correlation of diffusion tractography and histology.

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  • 1Division of Newborn Medicine, Department of Medicine, Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The immature cortex (cortical plate [CP]) and underlying subplate (SP), a transient cell layer just below the CP, play critical roles in the formation of intracerebral connections. The purpose of this study was to examine the diffusion characteristics of the developing cortex and subcortical structures and compare to histology. We obtained high-resolution diffusion spectrum images of postnatal day (P) 0 (newborn), P35 (pediatric), and P100 (adult) cat brains, performed tractography analysis, and correlated with histological findings. Tractography revealed radial organization and radial afferent/efferent tracts not only in the CP but also in external SP at P0. Radial organization persisted only in the cortex but decreased at P35 and P100. Radial organization correlated with radial cellular organization, with highest cellular density at P0 (Cresyl Violet staining). At P0, the internal SP contained abundant corticocortical and projection tractography pathways, crossing at wide angles in areas with no myelination by Luxol Fast Blue staining. At P35 and P100, increased directional coherence of white matter was observed, with fewer local tracts, but more long association pathways. These results suggest that diffusion tractography can differentially characterize internal and external SP zones and their transition into mature cortical pathways.

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