Maternal immune stimulation (MIS) is strongly implicated in the etiology of neuropsychiatric disorders. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies provide evidence for brain structural abnormalities in rodents following prenatal exposure to MIS. Reported volumetric changes in adult MIS offspring comprise among others larger ventricular volumes, consistent with alterations found in patients with schizophrenia.
Linking rodent models of MIS with non-invasive small animal neuroimaging modalities thus represents a powerful tool for the investigation of structural endophenotypes. Traditionally manual segmentation of regions-of-interest, which is laborious and prone to low intra- and inter-rater reliability, was employed for data analysis. Recently automated analysis platforms in rodent disease models are emerging. However, none of these has been found to reliably detect ventricular volume changes in MIS nor directly compared manual and automated data analysis strategies. The present study was thus conducted to establish an automated, structural analysis method focused on lateral ventricle segmentation. It was applied to ex-vivo rat brain MRI scans. Performance was validated for phenotype induction following MIS and preventive treatment data and compared to manual segmentation.
In conclusion, we present an automated analysis platform to investigate ventricular volume alterations in rodent models thereby encouraging their preclinical use in the search for new urgently needed treatments.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience