Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 645–661 | Cite as

Stress-Induced Grey Matter Loss Determined by MRI Is Primarily Due to Loss of Dendrites and Their Synapses

  • Mustafa S. Kassem
  • Jim Lagopoulos
  • Tim Stait-Gardner
  • William S. Price
  • Tariq W. Chohan
  • Jonathon C. Arnold
  • Sean N. Hatton
  • Maxwell R. BennettEmail author


Stress, unaccompanied by signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, is known to decrease grey matter volume (GMV) in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and hippocampus but not the amygdala in humans. We sought to determine if this was the case in stressed mice using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and to identify the cellular constituents of the grey matter that quantitatively give rise to such changes. Stressed mice showed grey matter losses of 10 and 15 % in the ACC and hippocampus, respectively but not in the amygdala or the retrosplenial granular area (RSG). Concurrently, no changes in the number or volumes of the somas of neurons, astrocytes or oligodendrocytes were detected. A loss of synaptic spine density of up to 60 % occurred on different-order dendrites in the ACC and hippocampus (CA1) but not in the amygdala or RSG. The loss of spines was accompanied by decreases in cumulative dendritic length of neurons of over 40 % in the ACC and hippocampus (CA1) giving rise to decreases in volume of dendrites of 2.6 mm3 for the former and 0.6 mm3 for the latter, with no change in the amygdala or RSG. These values are similar to the MRI-determined loss of GMV following stress of 3.0 and 0.8 mm3 in ACC and hippocampus, respectively, with no changes in the amygdala or RSG. This quantitative study is the first to relate GMV changes in the cortex measured with MRI to volume changes in cellular constituents of the grey matter.


Stress Magnetic resonance imaging Grey matter Dendrites Neurons 


Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no competing financial interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mustafa S. Kassem
    • 1
  • Jim Lagopoulos
    • 1
  • Tim Stait-Gardner
    • 2
  • William S. Price
    • 2
  • Tariq W. Chohan
    • 1
  • Jonathon C. Arnold
    • 1
  • Sean N. Hatton
    • 1
  • Maxwell R. Bennett
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.The Brain and Mind Research InstituteUniversity of SydneyCamperdownAustralia
  2. 2.Nanoscale Organisation and Dynamics GroupThe University of Western SydneyPenrithAustralia

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