Miniature pig model of human adolescent brain white matter development

Meghann C. Ryan, Paul Sherman, Laura M. Rowland, S. Andrea Wijtenburg, Ashley Acheson, Els Fieremans, Jelle Veraart, Dmitry S. Novikov, L. Elliot Hong, John Sladky, P. Dana Peralta, Peter Kochunov, Stephen A. McGuire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background Neuroscience research in brain development and disorders can benefit from an in vivo animal model that portrays normal white matter (WM) development trajectories and has a sufficiently large cerebrum for imaging with human MRI scanners and protocols. New method Twelve three-month-old Sinclair™ miniature pigs (Sus scrofa domestica) were longitudinally evaluated during adolescent development using advanced diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) focused on cerebral WM. Animals had three MRI scans every 23.95 ± 3.73 days using a 3-T scanner. The DWI imaging protocol closely modeled advanced human structural protocols and consisted of fifteen b-shells (b = 0–3500 s/mm2) with 32-directions/shell. DWI data were analyzed using diffusion kurtosis and bi-exponential modeling that provided measurements that included fractional anisotropy (FA), radial kurtosis, kurtosis anisotropy (KA), axial kurtosis, tortuosity, and permeability-diffusivity index (PDI). Results Significant longitudinal effects of brain development were observed for whole-brain average FA, KA, and PDI (all p < 0.001). There were expected regional differences in trends, with corpus callosum fibers showing the highest rate of change. Comparison with existing method(s) Pigs have a large, gyrencephalic brain that can be studied using clinical MRI scanners/protocols. Pigs are less complex than non-human primates thus satisfying the “replacement” principle of animal research. Conclusions Longitudinal effects were observed for whole-brain and regional diffusion measurements. The changes in diffusion measurements were interepreted as evidence for ongoing myelination and maturation of cerebral WM. Corpus callosum and superficial cortical WM showed the expected higher rates of change, mirroring results in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-108
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
StatePublished - Feb 15 2018


  • Adolescent brain development
  • Diffusion weighted imaging
  • Miniature swine
  • White matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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