Neuroanatomy of the Subadult and Fetal Brain of the Atlantic White-sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus) from in Situ Magnetic Resonance Images



This article provides the first anatomically labeled, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) -based atlas of the subadult and fetal Atlantic white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus) brain. It differs from previous MRI-based atlases of cetaceans in that it was created from images of fresh, postmortem brains in situ rather than extracted, formalin-fixed brains. The in situ images displayed the classic hallmarks of odontocete brains: fore-shortened orbital lobes and pronounced temporal width. Olfactory structures were absent and auditory regions (e.g., temporal lobes and inferior colliculi) were enlarged. In the subadult and fetal postmortem MRI scans, the hippocampus was identifiable, despite the relatively small size of this structure in cetaceans. The white matter tracts of the fetal hindbrain and cerebellum were pronounced, but in the telencephalon, the white matter tracts were much less distinct, consistent with less myelin. The white matter tracts of the auditory pathways in the fetal brains were myelinated, as shown by the T2 hypointensity signals for the inferior colliculus, cochlear nuclei, and trapezoid bodies. This finding is consistent with hearing and auditory processing regions maturing in utero in L. acutus, as has been observed for most mammals. In situ MRI scanning of fresh, postmortem specimens can be used not only to study the evolution and developmental patterns of cetacean brains but also to investigate the impacts of natural toxins (such as domoic acid), anthropogenic chemicals (such as polychlorinated biphenyls, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and their hydroxylated metabolites), biological agents (parasites), and noise on the central nervous system of marine mammal species. Anat Rec, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.