Upcoming Webinar: Stereology Concepts & Probe Selection

Area and Volume Estimation in Stereo InvestigatorStereology is considered the gold standard methodology for unbiased and precise quantification of microscopic biological features of tissues. Yet, researchers are often confused about how to properly design an experiment which effectively and efficiently employs stereology.  This webinar is designed to demystify the core concepts of stereology ( isotropy, systematic random sampling, tissue preparation, bias) to help participants confidently design their next experiment.

In this webinar led by Drs. Susan Tappan and Dan Peruzzi, participants will learn:

  • how to choose the correct probes for estimation of object number, length, surface  area, and regional volume.
  • how to select the most suitable type of tissue sectioning.
  • how to perform systematic sampling properly.

Go to our website to register for our free webinar “Stereology Concepts & Probe Selection” which will take place Thursday, March 28 at 12 noon US Eastern Standard Time.

You may also be interested in watching our previous webinars.

We are at First FALAN Congress in Mexico

Dr. Jose Maldonado, Head of Operations for MBF Bioscience Central and South America is having a busy fall season. After wrapping things up at the Chilean Society for Cell Biology’s Annual Meeting in Puerto Varas, Chile, he’s off to Cancun for the First Congress of the Federation of Latin American and Caribbean Neuroscience Societies.

“MBF America Latina will have a booth at the meeting where I will be demonstrating MBF Bioscience products to the Latin American Neuroscience community,” said Dr. Maldonado. “Additionally, I will be offering a course on biological quantification along with Dr. Suzana Herculano titled ‘Counting cells, synapses and other structures: an introduction to design-based stereology and to the isotropic fractionator.'”

During the free two-day workshop, students will learn about the theory and practice of stereology and its applications in neuroscience. Send an email to Dr. Maldonado at jmaldonado@mbfbioscience.com to reserve a place in the course, and be sure to stop by the MBF Bioscience booth for demonstrations of Stereo Investigator, Neurolucida, WormLab, Biolucida Cloud, Microlucida, AutoNeuron, AutoSpine, and more!

The First Congress of the Federation of Latin-American and Caribbean Neuroscience Societies (Primer Congreso FALAN) takes place Sunday, November 4 – Friday, November 9, in Cancun, Mexico.

Dr. Julie Simpson to Give a Stereology Talk at the University of Iowa

On Friday, October 5, MBF Bioscience Staff Scientist Julie Simpson joins a group of scientific experts at the Iowa Microscopy Society‘s Fall Meeting, where she will give a presentation on the principles of design-based stereology and experimental design.

During the presentation, Dr. Simpson will offer an introduction to the concepts of design-based stereology and discuss the proper implementation of stereological protocols to generate unbiased estimates.   Her talk will also highlight why stereology is considered the gold standard for reporting cell estimations, volumes, and length.

You can get the full day’s program, and register for the event at the University of Iowa’s website.

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Study Review: Dr. Daniel Peruzzi Highlights Best Publication Practices by Analyzing a New Stereological Study

Dr. Daniel Peruzzi, staff scientist, shares his thoughts below:

Customers often ask Staff Scientists at MBF Bioscience why it is sometimes difficult to reproduce certain published stereological results. For example, we get the question, “The estimates that I make of cell number in the region I’m researching do not match numbers reported in the literature. Can you help me understand why?”

To solve this dilemma, we encourage our customers to publish relevant information about their stereological methods to help others reproduce their findings. That’s why it was a pleasure for me to read the recent paper “Postnatal development of the rat amygdala: a stereological study in rats,” by Chareyron, Banta Lavenex, and Lavenex, 2012, reporting stereological estimates of the volume and number of cells contained in the nuclei of the developing rat amygdala.

The authors did an excellent job reporting their stereological methods, including where they researched, and how they performed stereological sampling. As a result, their conclusions are convincing and more easily reproduced by others. I was impressed by both their methods and their findings. In this article I will first summarize their research and then go on to discuss how they reported the particulars of their stereology methods. My main purpose is to point out their stereological reporting and how well thought out their stereologic methods were.

Continue reading “Study Review: Dr. Daniel Peruzzi Highlights Best Publication Practices by Analyzing a New Stereological Study” »

Prof. Mark West Visits the MBF Bioscience Office

We recently welcomed some very special guests at our main office in Williston, Vermont. Dr. Mark West, a professor at Aarhus University in Denmark, and an expert and pioneer in the field of stereology, and his wife Maryam spent an exciting day touring the office, chatting with the staff, and trying out some of our new products.

“It’s a real honor to have Professor Mark West visit our offices,” MBF President Jack Glaser said. “The work that he pioneered in counting brain cells with unbiased stereology has evolved in our Stereo Investigator software. His contributions to the field are enormous.”

During his visit, Dr. West presented us with a copy of his new book Basic Stereology for Biologists and Neuroscientists, which President Glaser says “will be the book that everyone learning stereology reads.” And we were delighted to offer Dr. West a preview of the upcoming version of Stereo Investigator 11, set for official release this fall.

“It was great to visit the MBF offices,” Dr. West said. “When I’m in Denmark I interact with many of the MBF employees through the remote online service, where they interact live with me and my PC. I was very happy to meet in person so many of the people who I already know through these remote sessions. MBF has impressive facilities, and a truly great team!”

Read an interview with Prof. Mark West we ran earlier this year.

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On-Site: First MBF Bioscience System Installed in Africa

From left: Jacquie, Tyrone, Susan, Liz, Mauritz, Hayley, Jose

Africa’s first MBF Bioscience system was installed at the University of Cape Town in South Africa last month.  The head of MBF Bioscience Latin America, Dr. Jose Maldonado, integrated Stereo Investigator with a Zeiss 510 Confocal microscope in the Confocal and Light Microscope Imaging Facility at Dr. Dirk Lang’s lab.  Jose also trained the team on how to use the system and gave a talk on stereology theory during his visit.

Comprising a wide range of research areas including neuroscience, cell biology, and applied anatomy, the University of Cape Town’s Confocal and Light Microscope Imaging Facility provides state-of-the-art equipment for advanced fluorescent image acquisition and analysis.

We’re pleased to be able to provide tools for Dr. Lang and his team’s research, and thrilled to have a system in South Africa! Here are a few photos from Jose’s training session.

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A Look Inside Dr. Mark West’s New Book, Basic Stereology for Biologists and Neuroscientists

Stereology has come a long way since Dr. Mark West started using the method of quantitative analysis in his research. The assumption-based or model-based stereological methods of the 1970s have been replaced by the more sophisticated design-based or unbiased stereological methods used today. Dr. West, a Professor of Medical Neurobiology at Aarhus University in Denmark and author of the most cited scientific papers on the application of modern stereological methods to the nervous system has been there every step of the way. His new book, Basic Stereology for Biologists and Neuroscientists, is a guide to the “new stereology” that presents the fundamental concept behind design-based stereology and offers concise instruction on how to design and critically evaluate your own study. Read our Q&A with Dr. West to find out more about his new book, and why modern stereological methods are better than ever.

Why did you decide to write a book on stereology? During the past two decades, a large number of scientific papers have been published that collectively represent a paradigm shift in thinking about how to derive meaningful quantitative data about structural features in biological tissues; these are often referred to as design-based or unbiased stereological methods. This book is an attempt to present a number of the concepts and principles of the new stereology in one coherent discussion of what these methods involve in terms of their proper application.

How long have you been using stereology in your research? The first paper that I published using stereology was in 1974. It involved the use of assumption or model-based stereological methods and allowed me to appreciate the virtues of the subsequently developed modern design-based stereological methods described in my book.

Why is stereology the best method for quantitative analysis of biological tissues? The unique aspect of the new design-based stereology is that, unlike previously available methods, these methods involve no prerequisite information about the structural features being quantified and emphasize the importance of estimates of total quantities such as number, length, surface, and volume.

Do you have any stereology workshops coming up? I will be teaching a two-day “Introduction to Stereology for Neuroscientists” course July 12-13, 2012 in Barcelona, immediately proceeding the Federation of European Neuroscientists meeting. And I’ll be teaching the same course prior to the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting this October in New Orleans.

Who would you recommend order a copy of your book? Anyone interested in knowing how to design, supervise, and critically evaluate stereological studies of the biological tissue including the nervous system should own this book.

Basic Stereology for Biologists and Neuroscientists will be available in August, 2012 through Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. Pre-order Dr. Mark West’s book now to receive a 10% discount.

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John Hopkins University Scientists Quantify Neurons with Stereo Investigator


Rats lose brain cells as they get older. But that doesn’t mean they can’t find their way through a water maze as quickly as their younger cohorts can.

Using unbiased stereology to quantify neurons in the prefrontal cortex of young and old rats, scientists at John Hopkins University in Baltimore found the total neuron number in the dorsal prefrontal cortex (dPFC) decreases with age. But despite the lost neurons, not all of the aged rats showed spatial learning impairment.

Led by Dr. Alexis Stranahan, the researcher team used Stereo Investigator with the Optical Fractionator to quantify total neuron number and the number of interneurons positively stained with antibodies to glutamic acid decarboxylase 67 (GAD67) in both the dorsal and ventral prefrontal cortex. They also used Stereo Investigator to outline cytoarchitectural boundaries in these regions of the rat brain.

To measure the efficiency of the rats’ spatial memory, the researchers used the Morris Water Maze. Trained to find a target platform while swimming in a pool of water, the rats were rated on their speed, distance traveled, and the time they spent in each area of the pool.

Their stereological analysis only revealed neuron count changes in the dPFC. No changes were observed in the vPFC; “and age-related neuronal loss was not associated with spatial memory performance,” the authors state in their paper, which was published online last February in the Journal of Comparative Neurology and will appear in the April 15 issue.

“We believe that when these data are taken together with the current observation that both aged-impaired and aged-unimpaired rats exhibit decreased neuron number in the dorsal prefrontal region, to the extent that such neuron loss is detrimental in this behavioral model, some compensatory mechanisms might be recruited to maintain the performance of unimpaired rats,” according to the study.

Read the full paper here.



Stranahan, A. M., N. T. Jiam, A. M. Spiegel and M. Gallagher (2012).
“Aging reduces total neuron number in the dorsal component of the rodent prefrontal cortex.”
The Journal of Comparative Neurology 520(6): 1318-1326.

Still Time to Register for Two Upcoming Workshops on Stereology and Confocal Microscopy

Do you use stereology in your lab? Would you like to know more about how you can use stereology to accurately estimate total quantities, lengths, areas, and volumes in your research?  This month sees two separate stereology workshops.  Dr. Dan Peterson’s “Practical Workshop in Confocal Microscopy and Stereology” in Chicago, Illinois.  And at Woods Hole, Massachusetts Dr. Mark West leads his “NeuroStereology Workshop.”

Founding Director of the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, Dr. Daniel Peterson’s biannual “Practical Workshop in Confocal Microscopy and Stereology” takes place March 18-23 at Club Quarters Hotel in Chicago. The intensive, week-long workshop offers a comprehensive background in the theory and practice of modern histological preparation and microscopic analysis. The workshop covers the entire process of microscopic analysis from specimen preparation to the readying of images for publication. For more information read our Q&A with Dr. Peterson to find out more about his course.

Over on the East Coast, Dr. Mark West’s “NeuroStereology Workshop” takes place March 24-29 at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, on Cape Cod. Professor of Medical Neurobiology at The University of Aarhus in Denmark, Dr. West’s course focuses on how stereological methodology can apply to nervous system research. This year’s workshop will include lectures on the Cavalieri Principle, the Optical Fractionator, and Isotropic Probes. You can find more information about the course at the Neurostereology website.


March 18 – 23, 2012
Practical Workshop in Confocal Microscopy and Stereology
Instructor: Dr. Daniel Peterson
Club Quarters Hotel, Chicago

March 24 – 29, 2012
NeuroStereology Workshop
Instructor: Dr. Mark West
Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts


Our Webinar on Using Unbiased Stereology is Now Available to View Online


Our most recent webinar on ‘Using Unbiased Stereology to Accurately Determine the Number of Cells in a Region of Interest’ is now available to view on our website.

The Optical Fractionator is the most commonly used stereological probe in the life sciences.  In our webinar Drs. Jose Maldonado and Dan Peruzzi go over the theory behind the Optical Fractionator probe.

Learn the correct stereological protocol to use when running the Optical Fractionator probe as Drs. Maldonao and Peruzzi give practical advice for planning an experiment using the Optical Fractionator.  Discover how to count cells in order to get an estimate that is precise enough for your research while avoiding spending unnecessary time counting.  Use the theoretical framework presented in this webinar to support the practical application of the Optical Fractionator in your laboratory’s research.

Click here to view the webinar.