Anatomy of the Cortex: Statistics and Geometry by Prof. Dr. Valentino Braitenberg, Priv. Doz. Dr. Almut Schüz

By Prof. Dr. Valentino Braitenberg, Priv. Doz. Dr. Almut Schüz (auth.)

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1-· ' : . ·. Density of Synapses 37 The comparison of the same region of the section in the two kinds of pictures (Fig. 18) shows that most of the light speckles in the dark field micrograph do indeed correspond to the location of synapses. Unfortunately, for reasons of wave optics, two or more synapses that lie too close together appear as one point in the dark field picture. For this reason this method cannot really be used for quantitative neuroanatomy. Fig. 18. Correspondence between an electron micrograph (above) and a dark field light micrograph (below) of the same section stained with phosphotungstic acid.

15). Care was taken to record every axonal swelling on the drawings. The length of the axonal segments was calculated from their length on the drawing and their extension in depth measured with the micro-drive of the microscope. This was important because the counts were ultimately to be expressed in terms of axonal swellings per axonal length, in order to relate them to the value which was obtained in the global comparison of the axonal and the synaptic density in the tissue (see Chap. 8). The average distance separating boutons along the axons varied considerably from neuron to neuron and in some cases between different branches of the same axonal tree (Fig.

This can be done by low pH fixation and/or by exposure to ultrasound before applying the stain. The background can be kept so clear that even sections 300 to 500 nm thick can be used in the electron microscope. The very same sections, photographed with a high power lens in dark field lightmicroscopy (Fig. 17), provide an impressive display of the density of the synapses in the tissue (Braitenberg 1981; Braitenberg and Schilz 1983). Fig. 17. Dark field photograph of synapses (bright spots) in the third layer of the mouse cortex.

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