Striking Similarities: Atlas of Equine Brain May Aid Human Medicine

U.S. researchers have created a standardized brain atlas of a horse using an MRI machine. Brain atlases have been created for many other species, but not for horses. The atlas will be a valuable resource for neuroimaging research.

Drs. Philippa Johnson, Valentin Janvier, Wen-Ming Luh, Marnie Fitz Maurice, Teresa Southard and Erica Barry of Cornell University have made the atlas available to other researchers online. Scientists are becoming increasingly interested in the equine brain for behavioral, neuroanatomic and neuroscientific research.

An adult horse’s brain averages about 1.3 pounds; its surface has complex folds and grooves, making it similar to humans. Horses also have testable cognitive function, making it a potential animal model for multiple neuropsychological diseases.

To create the atlas, the team took images of the brains of nine horses that had been euthanized. They then created tissue segmentation maps from the gray matter, white matter and cerebrospinal fluid. From these, they created a high-resolution, anatomically correlated 3D average brain atlas for the horse.

The researchers found that each horse in the study had higher brain matter on the right side, which is consistent with the right forebrain dominance of horses. Though there was no significant correlation, they also found that as horses age, the grey matter volume decreases, and white matter volume increases. No stallions were used in the study, so the ability to test the effect of sex on brain tissue volume.

Read the study here.

Read more at HorseTalk.

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