A semi-automated workflow for brain Slice Histology Alignment, Registration, and Cell Quantification (SHARCQ)

Kristoffer Lauridsen, Annie Ly, Emily D. Prévost, Connor McNulty, Dillon J. McGovern, Jian Wei Tay, Joseph Dragavon, and David H. Root

eNeuro 9, ENEURO.0483-21.2022 (2022)


Tools for refined cell-specific targeting have significantly contributed to understanding the characteristics and dynamics of distinct cellular populations by brain region. While advanced cell-labeling methods have accelerated the field of neuroscience, specifically in brain mapping, there remains a need to quantify and analyze the data. Here, by modifying a toolkit that localizes electrodes to brain regions (SHARP-Track), we introduce a post-imaging analysis tool to map histological images to established mouse brain atlases called SHARCQ (Slice Histology Alignment, Registration, and Cell Quantification). The program requires MATLAB, histological images, and either a manual or automatic cell count of the unprocessed images. SHARCQ simplifies the post-imaging analysis pipeline with a step-by-step GUI. We demonstrate that SHARCQ can be applied for a variety of mouse brain images, regardless of histology technique. In addition, SHARCQ rectifies discrepancies in mouse brain region borders between atlases by allowing the user to select between the Allen Brain Atlas or the digitized and modified Franklin-Paxinos Atlas for quantifying cell counts by region. SHARCQ produces quantitative and qualitative data, including counts of brain-wide region populations and a 3D model of registered cells within the atlas space. In summary, SHARCQ was designed as a neuroscience post-imaging analysis tool for cell-to-brain registration and quantification with a simple, accessible interface. All code is open-source and available for download (https://github.com/wildrootlab/SHARCQ).

Related software: https://github.com/Biofrontiers-ALMC/harmony-stitch

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