Scalable Labeling for Cytoarchitectonic Characterization of Large Optically Cleared Human Neocortex Samples

Sven Hildebrand, Anna Schueth, Andreas Herrler, Ralf Galuske, Alard Roebroeck*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Web of Science)


Optical clearing techniques and light sheet microscopy have transformed fluorescent imaging of rodent brains, and have provided a crucial alternative to traditional confocal or bright field techniques for thin sections. However, clearing and labeling human brain tissue through all cortical layers and significant portions of a cortical area, has so far remained extremely challenging, especially for formalin fixed adult cortical tissue. Here, we present MASH (Multiscale Architectonic Staining of Human cortex): a simple, fast and low-cost cytoarchitectonic labeling approach for optically cleared human cortex samples, which can be applied to large (up to 5 mm thick) formalin fixed adult brain samples. A suite of small-molecule fluorescent nuclear and cytoplasmic dye protocols in combination with new refractive index matching solutions allows deep volume imaging. This greatly reduces time and cost of imaging cytoarchitecture in thick samples and enables classification of cytoarchitectonic layers over the full cortical depth. We demonstrate application of MASH to large archival samples of human visual areas, characterizing cortical architecture in 3D from the scale of cortical areas to that of single cells. In combination with scalable light sheet imaging and data analysis, MASH could open the door to investigation of large human cortical systems at cellular resolution and in the context of their complex 3-dimensional geometry.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10880
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2019



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