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Ratlas: A New Rodent Brain Atlas Set To Revolutionize Neuroscience

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The British Neuroscience Association (BNA) have announced the launch of Ratlas, a new - and freely available - resource that will increase the accuracy and efficiency of experiments and also help to reduce animal numbers used for neuroscience research across the country.

Ratlas is an atlas of the rat brain that has been developed to revolutionise and support vital experiments on the health and disorders of brain function.

Just published in an article in the open access journal, Brain and Neuroscience Advances, neuroscientists from the University of Nottingham, working with colleagues at the Leibniz Institute of Neurobiology in Magdeburg, Germany, have created the first atlas – Ratlas – to present a close likeness to the brains of the rats most commonly used in UK neuroscience research, the Lister hooded rat.

The new brain atlas - Ratlas - delivers more accurate coordinates, because it is more representative of the brains of rats used in UK neuroscience research. As a direct result, this will minimise the requirement for laborious pilot experiments and help to reduce animal numbers used for research.

The new atlas was constructed based on the live magnetic resonance (MR) images of seven brains of Lister hooded rats, one of the main rat strains used in the UK for studies of the brain mechanisms of cognition and behaviour in health and disorder. These MR images were used to form an ‘average’ rat brain, which was then combined with an average of computer tomography (CT)-generated images of the surrounding skulls. Labels were added to the brain images to aid identification of different brain regions. The digital format of the atlas also makes it very user friendly and accessible, compared to traditional atlases.

In future work, the researchers in Nottingham and Magdeburg plan to generate additional atlases, based on other commonly used rat and mouse strains, including both sexes and different developmental stages. 

You can find and use Ratlas for free at: https://www.nitrc.org/projects/ratlas-lham/ 

Importantly, Ratlas is freely available to everyone thanks to it being in BNA’s Gold Open Access journal. Open access for all is a critical part of the BNA’s credibility in neuroscience campaign, promoting credibility initiatives that support reproducibility, replicability and reliability in science. 


Prior MJW, Bast T, McGarrity S, et al. Ratlas-LH: An MRI template of the Lister hooded rat brain with stereotaxic coordinates for neurosurgical implantations. Brain and Neuroscience Advances. 2021;5:23982128211036332. doi:10.1177/23982128211036332

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