Adapting a PC-Based Three-Dimensional CAD Program for Display of Neural Structures

J.F. Whitehead, E. Covey, J.H. Casseday

Departments of Surgery and Neurobiology
Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710

North Carolina Society for Neuroscience Symposium. 1989.

Two-dimensional perspective renderings of the three-dimensional structures of brain anatomy were once limited to minicomputers and mainframes due to the complexity of the data and processing involved. Recent advances in computing speed and storage have enabled them to be created on "personal"- sized microcomputers.

We have used Cadkey, a program intended for machine part design, to represent the neuroanatomy of bats on an IBM AT-compatible PC. We input drawings of serial brain sections from an average specimen to create a three-dimensional atlas that can be viewed from any angle. We can show or hide any structure or region necessary for a clear display of the brain and its anatomy from any view. We can then input experimental results and superimpose them on the atlas.

For example, labeled axons and cell bodies or electrode penetrations and their resulting data can be located within the three-dimensional structure of the atlas. Thus the results of several experiments can be viewed simultaneously in a visually comprehensible manner and be printed out in a publication-quality format. The capabilities of such a PC-based three-dimensional CAD system approach those of mainframe systems, but at a significantly lower cost.