Neuronal density, size and shape in the human anterior cingulate cortex: a comparison of Nissl and NeuN staining.
Gittins R., Harrison PJ.
There are an increasing number of quantitative morphometric studies of the human cerebral cortex, especially as part of comparative investigations of major psychiatric disorders. In this context, the present study had two aims. First, to provide quantitative data regarding key neuronal morphometric parameters in the anterior cingulate cortex. Second, to compare the results of conventional Nissl staining with those observed after immunostaining with NeuN, an antibody becoming widely used as a selective neuronal marker. We stained adjacent sections of area 24b from 16 adult brains with cresyl violet or NeuN. We measured the density of pyramidal and non-pyramidal neurons, and the size and shape of pyramidal neurons, in laminae II, III, Va, Vb and VI, using two-dimensional counting methods. Strong correlations between the two modes of staining were seen for all variables. However, NeuN gave slightly higher estimates of neuronal density and size, and a more circular perikaryal shape. Brain pH was correlated with neuronal size, measured with both methods, and with neuronal shape. Age and post-mortem interval showed no correlations with any parameter. These data confirm the value of NeuN as a tool for quantitative neuronal morphometric studies in routinely processed human brain tissue. Absolute values are highly correlated between NeuN and cresyl violet stains, but cannot be interchanged. NeuN may be particularly useful when it is important to distinguish small neurons from glia, such as in cytoarchitectural studies of the cerebral cortex in depression and schizophrenia.