A stereotaxic MRI template set for the rat brain with tissue class distribution maps and co-registered anatomical atlas: Application to pharmacological MRI

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We describe a stereotaxic rat brain MRI template set with a co-registered digital anatomical atlas and illustrate its application to the analysis of a pharmacological MRI (phMRI) study of apomorphine. The template set includes anatomical images and tissue class probability maps for brain parenchyma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). These facilitate the use of standard fMRI software for spatial normalisation and tissue segmentation of rat brain data. A volumetric reconstruction of the Paxinos and Watson rat brain atlas is also co-localised with the template, enabling the atlas structure and stereotaxic coordinates corresponding to a feature within a statistical map to be interactively reported, facilitating the localisation of functional effects. Moreover, voxels falling within selected brain structures can be combined to define anatomically based 3D volumes of interest (VOIs), free of operator bias. As many atlas structures are small relative to the typical resolution of phMRI studies, a mechanism for defining composite structures as agglomerations of individual atlas structures is also described. This provides a simple and robust means of interrogating structures that are otherwise difficult to delineate and an objective framework for comparing and classifying compounds based on an anatomical profile of their activity. These developments allow a closer alignment of pre-clinical and clinical analysis techniques.

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