Methods of studying the planar distribution of objects in histological sections of brain tissue

Richard A. Armstrong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article reviews the statistical methods that have been used to study the planar distribution, and especially clustering, of objects in histological sections of brain tissue. The objective of these studies is usually quantitative description, comparison between patients or correlation between histological features. Objects of interest such as neurones, glial cells, blood vessels or pathological features such as protein deposits appear as sectional profiles in a two-dimensional section. These objects may not be randomly distributed within the section but exhibit a spatial pattern, a departure from randomness either towards regularity or clustering. The methods described include simple tests of whether the planar distribution of a histological feature departs significantly from randomness using randomized points, lines or sample fields and more complex methods that employ grids or transects of contiguous fields, and which can detect the intensity of aggregation and the sizes, distribution and spacing of clusters. The usefulness of these methods in understanding the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is discussed. © 2006 The Royal Microscopical Society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-158
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Microscopy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2006


  • clustering
  • planar distribution
  • Poisson distribution
  • spatial pattern
  • variance mean ratio


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