Quantitative methods in neuropathology

Richard A. Armstrong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The last decade has seen a considerable increase in the application of quantitative methods in the study of histological sections of brain tissue and especially in the study of neurodegenerative disease. These disorders are characterised by the deposition and aggregation of abnormal or misfolded proteins in the form of extracellular protein deposits such as senile plaques (SP) and intracellular inclusions such as neurofibrillary tangles (NFT). Quantification of brain lesions and studying the relationships between lesions and normal anatomical features of the brain, including neurons, glial cells, and blood vessels, has become an important method of elucidating disease pathogenesis. This review describes methods for quantifying the abundance of a histological feature such as density, frequency, and 'load' and the sampling methods by which quantitative measures can be obtained including plot/quadrat sampling, transect sampling, and the point-quarter method. In addition, methods for determining the spatial pattern of a histological feature, i.e., whether the feature is distributed at random, regularly, or is aggregated into clusters, are described. These methods include the use of the Poisson and binomial distributions, pattern analysis by regression, Fourier analysis, and methods based on mapped point patterns. Finally, the statistical methods available for studying the degree of spatial correlation between pathological lesions and neurons, glial cells, and blood vessels are described.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-230
Number of pages14
JournalFolia Neuropathologica
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

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  • neurodegenerative disorders
  • quantitative measurements
  • abundance
  • sampling methods
  • spatial pattern
  • spatial correlation


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