A Frameless Stereotaxic MRI Technique for Macaque Neuroscience Studies

David J Dubowitz*, Miriam Scadeng
Center for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Department of Radiology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0677, USA

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© Dubowitz and Scadeng; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Center for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Department of Radiology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0677, USA; Tel: (858) 822 0528; Fax: (858) 822 0605; E-mail:


MRI has achieved widespread use for preplanning neuroscience procedures for non-human primate studies. However, orienting imaging studies in stereotaxic space has relied primarily on using a stereotaxic frame or co-registering fiducial markers with the neuroimaging. In this study, we present a simple approach in which the MRI dataset is aligned to the bony landmarks that define the Frankfurt stereotaxic baseline plane, without the need for a stereotaxic frame or additional external fiducials. To facilitate localizing the bony landmarks (infraorbital margin, external bony auditory meatus) on the MRI scans additional imaging landmarks (mid ocular plane, temporomandibular joint) are discussed that provide supplementary and readily visible points of reference.

The frameless MRI stereotaxic technique was evaluated in 8 rhesus macaque monkeys using 3D fast gradient echo MRI images with 0.7mm isotropic resolution. 1) Difference in stereotaxic coordinates of fiducial markers was compared between a traditional stereotaxic frame and the frameless MRI technique (n=2). 2) Differences in stereotaxic coordinates for cerebral regions were compared between the frameless MRI technique and MRI obtained with the animal positioned in a MRI-compatible stereotaxic frame (n=4). 3) The frameless MRI technique was further refined to prescribe electrode penetrations within a dural recording chamber in stereotaxic coordinates relative to the electrode microdrive. Differences in MRI coordinates were compared with the electrode microdrive (n=3).

Mean localization of fiducial markers differed by 1.6 +/- 0.6 mm between the frameless MRI technique and a traditional stereotaxic frame. Between the frameless technique and an MRI-compatible stereotaxic frame, localization of cerebral anatomy differed by 2.8 +/- 2.2 mm with the primary source of error being a pitch-up rotation in the sagittal plane. This localization difference was reduced to 0.5 +/- 0.6 mm when this rotation was removed. Frameless MRI coordinates for electrode tracts within the dural recording chamber were within 0.5mm +/- 0.2 mm of the electrode microdrive readings.

This simple technique provides the ability to accurately plan surgery and neurophysiological recordings in an individual animal, and to define the location of cerebral anatomy and electrode or injection tracts using publically available software, and without the need for dedicated MRI-compatible localization hardware. The reduced need for deep anesthesia (a necessity with traditional stereotaxic frames) makes the technique more amenable for functional MRI studies. Since each animal provides the bony landmarks to define their own stereotaxic space, this technique is readily applicable to other species.

Keywords: Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Rhesus, Primate, Electrophysiology, Surgical planning.