Genetic dissection of the mouse CNS using magnetic resonance microscopy

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Purpose of review

Advances in magnetic resonance microscopy (MRM) make it practical to map gene variants responsible for structural variation in brains of many species, including mice and humans. We review results of a systematic genetic analysis of MRM data using as a case study a family of well characterized lines of mice.

Recent advances

MRM has matured to the point that we can generate high contrast, high-resolution images even for species as small as a mouse, with a brain merely 1/3000th the size of humans. We generated 21.5-micron data sets for a diverse panel of BXD mouse strains to gauge the extent of genetic variation, and as a prelude to comprehensive genetic and genomic analyses. Here we review MRM capabilities and image segmentation methods; heritability of brain variation; covariation of the sizes of brain regions; and correlations between MRM and classical histological data sets.


The combination of high throughput MRM and genomics will improve our understanding of the genetic basis of structure–function correlations. Sophisticated mouse models will be critical in converting correlations into mechanisms and in determining genetic and epigenetic causes of differences in disease susceptibility.

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