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Cetacean (dolphin, whale, and porpoise) brains are among the least studied mammalian brains because of the formidability of collecting and histologically preparing such relatively rare and large specimens. Magnetic resonance imaging offers a means of observing the internal structure of the brain when traditional histological procedures are not practical. Furthermore, internal structures can be analyzed in their precise anatomic positions, which is difficult to accomplish after the spatial distortions often accompanying histological processing. In this study, images of the brain of an adult bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, were scanned in the coronal plane at 148 antero-posterior levels. From these scans a computer-generated three-dimensional model was constructed using the programs Voxel-View and VoxelMath (Vital Images, Inc.). This model, wherein details of internal and external morphology are represented in three-dimensional space, was then resectioned in orthogonal planes to produce corresponding series of virtual sections in the horizontal and sagittal planes. Sections in all three planes display the sizes and positions of major neuroanatomical features such as the arrangement of cortical lobes and subcortical structures such as the inferior and superior colliculi, and demonstrate the utility of MRI for neuroanatomical investigations of dolphin brains.


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