Analysis of spatial patterns in histological sections of brain tissue

Richard A. Armstrong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A method is described which enables the spatial pattern of discrete objects in histological sections of brain tissue to be determined. The method can be applied to cell bodies, sections of blood vessels or the characteristic lesions which develop in the brain of patients with neurodegenerative disorders. The density of the histological feature under study is measured in a series of contiguous sample fields arranged in a grid or transect. Data from adjacent sample fields are added together to provide density data for larger field sizes. A plot of the variance/mean ratio (V/M) of the data versus field size reveals whether the objects are distributed randomly, uniformly or in clusters. If the objects are clustered, the analysis determines whether the clusters are randomly or regularly distributed and the mean size of the clusters. In addition, if two different histological features are clustered, the analysis can determine whether their clusters are in phase, out of phase or unrelated to each other. To illustrate the method, the spatial patterns of senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles were studied in histological sections of brain tissue from patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-147
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 1997


  • clustering
  • histological sections
  • poisson distribution
  • spatial pattern analysis
  • variance/mean ratio


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