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Neuroscience. 1995 Sep;68(2):539-51.

Quantitative analysis of the variability of substantia nigra pigmented cell clusters in the human.

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Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, NSW, Australia.


At present there is no consensus concerning the internal organization of the human substantia nigra, despite its pivotal role in neurodegenerative conditions. We have quantitatively analysed the variability in the pattern of clusters of melanin-pigmented neurons in the human substantia nigra using serial section analysis and computer reconstructions. The substantia nigra pars compacta showed a bilaminar organization consisting of the pars medialis and pars lateralis, as well as dorsal and ventral tiers as described previously [D. A. McRitchie et al. (1995) J. comp. Neurol. (in press)]. Both the dorsal and ventral tiers could be further subdivided into three mediolateral cell columns based on position and cell density. The presence and arrangement of these cell clusters was most variable in transverse sections (the plane currently used for diagnostic neuropathology). Quantitative assessment of the topographical pattern of cell loss within single transverse sections of the human substantia nigra should therefore be treated with some caution. In contrast, the full rostrocaudal extent of the cell columns could be seen in horizontal sections. Thus, consistent samples of larger numbers of pigmented neurons per region were found in this section plane, although only two cell columns were found in most sections. Our results show that greater quantitative reliability can be achieved with horizontal sections of the substantia nigra.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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