A Systematic Approach to Dissection of the Equine Brain–Evaluation of a Species-Adapted Protocol for Beginners and Experts

Maya Lena Bitschi, Zoltán Bagó, Marco Rosati, Sven Reese, Lutz S. Goehring, Kaspar Matiasek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction of new imaging modalities for the equine brain have refocused attention on the horse as a natural model for ethological, neuroanatomical, and neuroscientific investigations. As opposed to imaging studies, strategies for equine neurodissection still lack a structured approach, standardization and reproducibility. In contrast to other species, where adapted protocols for sampling have been published, no comparable guideline is currently available for equids. Hence, we developed a species-specific slice protocol for whole brain vs. hemispheric dissection and tested its applicability and practicability in the field, as well as its neuroanatomical accuracy and reproducibility. Dissection steps are concisely described and depicted by schematic illustrations, photographs and instructional videos. Care was taken to show the brain in relation to the raters' hands, cutting devices and bench surface. Guidance is based on a minimum of external anatomical landmarks followed by geometric instructions that led to procurement of 14 targeted slabs. The protocol was performed on 55 formalin-fixed brains by three groups of investigators with different neuroanatomical skills. Validation of brain dissection outcomes addressed the aptitude of slabs for neuroanatomical studies as opposed to simplified routine diagnostic purposes. Across all raters, as much as 95.2% of slabs were appropriate for neuroanatomical studies, and 100% of slabs qualified for a routine diagnostic setting. Neither autolysis nor subfixation significantly affected neuroanatomical accuracy score, while a significant negative effect was observed with brain extraction artifacts. Procedure times ranged from 14 to 66 min and reached a mean duration of 23.25 ± 7.93 min in the last of five trials in inexperienced raters vs. 16 ± 2.83 min in experts, while acceleration of the dissection did not negatively impact neuroanatomical accuracy. This protocol, derived analogously to the consensus report of the International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force in dogs and cats, allows for systematic, quick and easy dissection of the equine brain, even for inexperienced investigators. Obtained slabs feature virtually all functional subcompartments at suitable planes for both diagnostic and neuroscientific investigations and complement the data obtained from imaging studies. The instructive protocol and brain dissection videos are available in Supplementary Material.

Original languageEnglish
Article number614929
JournalFrontiers in Neuroanatomy
StatePublished - Dec 18 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2020 Bitschi, Bagó, Rosati, Reese, Goehring and Matiasek.


  • brain atlas
  • central nervous system
  • equine
  • guideline
  • horse
  • necropsy
  • neuroanatomy
  • neuropathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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