It is well known that the density of neurons varies within the adult brain. In neocortex, this includes variations in neuronal density between different lamina as well as between different regions. Yet the concomitant variation of the microvessels is largely uncharted. Here, we present automated histological, imaging, and analysis tools to simultaneously map the locations of all neuronal and nonneuronal nuclei and the centerlines and diameters of all blood vessels within thick slabs of neocortex from mice. Based on total inventory measurements of different cortical regions (∼107 cells vectorized across brains), these methods revealed: (1) In three dimensions, the mean distance of the center of neuronal somata to the closest microvessel was 15 μm. (2) Volume samples within lamina of a given region show that the density of microvessels does not match the strong laminar variation in neuronal density. This holds for both agranular and granular cortex. (3) Volume samples in successive radii from the midline to the ventral-lateral edge, where each volume summed the number of cells and microvessels from the pia to the white matter, show a significant correlation between neuronal and microvessel densities. These data show that while neuronal and vascular densities do not track each other on the 100 μm scale of cortical lamina, they do track each other on the 1-10 mm scale of the cortical mantle. The absence of a disproportionate density of blood vessels in granular lamina is argued to be consistent with the initial locus of functional brain imaging signals.
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