Rabbits are widely accepted as an animal model in neuroscience research. They also represent very popular pet animals, and, in selected clinical cases with neurological signs, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be indicated for imaging the rabbit brain. Literature on the normal MRI anatomy of the rabbit brain and associated structures as well as related reference values is sparse. Therefore, it was the purpose of this study to generate an MRI atlas of the normal rabbit brain including the pituitary gland, the cranial nerves and major vessels by the use of a 3 T magnet.
Results: Based on transverse, dorsal and sagittal T2-weighted (T2w) and pre- and post-contrast 3D T1-weighted (T1w) sequences, 60 intracranial structures were identified and labeled. Typical features of a lissencephalic brain type were described. In the 5 investigated rabbits, on T1w images a crescent-shaped hyperintense area caudodorsally in the pituitary gland most likely corresponded to a part of the neurohypophysis. The optic, trigeminal, and in part, the facial, vestibulocochlear and trochlear nerves were identified. Mild contrast enhancement of the trigeminal nerve was present in all rabbits. Absolute and relative size of the pituitary gland, midline area of the cranial and caudal cranial fossa and height of the tel- and diencephalon, 3rd and 4th ventricles were also determined.
Conclusions: These data established normal MRI appearance and measurements of the rabbit brain. Results provide reference for research studies in rabbits and, in rare instances, clinical cases in veterinary medicine.