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What Is Stereology?

Stereology is simply the study of estimating geometric quantities—obtaining information from flat, two-dimensional images. 

In 1961, the journal Science carried the following announcement:

"An International Society of Stereology (the science of three-dimensional interpretation of flat images) has been formed for the exchange of ideas concerning applicable research methods in microanatomy, cytology, ultrastructure studies, metallurgy, geology, astronomy, and cosmology. Inquiries are invited concerning membership, or the activities of the society."

There are many examples today of estimating geometric quantities that are 2-dimensional. The more challenging concepts deal with the estimation of 3-dimensional quantities based on the observation of 2-dimensional images. 

Today, the field of stereology has evolved to include the study quantification in 3 dimensions. In fact, today the most common estimates are quantities in 3-dimensional material. Examples of this are the number of brain cells within a brain region, the length of capillaries, the volume of a tumor, as well as the percentage of quartz in granite. 

In recent years, advent of design-based stereology has improved the accuracy and reliability of quantification in biological research. The application of design-based stereological methods to the analysis of the central nervous system, as well as other organs, has contributed considerably to our understanding of the functional and pathological morphology of the body.

More Information about Stereology

Stereology.info provides the most comprehensive information about stereology on the web. Designed to introduce both basic and advanced concepts in the field of stereology, the emphasis is on the use of stereology in biological research, though anyone interested in learning the basic concepts of stereology will find something of interest.

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Recommended Stereology Courses and Workshops


Practical Workshop in Confocal Microscopy and Stereology

Organized by Dr. Daniel Peterson
August 18-22, 2014
Chicago, IL (USA)

Short Description
The purpose of this intensive, week-long workshop is to provide a comprehensive background in the theory and practice of modern histological preparation and microscopic analysis for researchers in biomedical science. The workshop provides a practical tutorial in all aspects of microscopic analysis including experimental design, specimen preparation, use of fluorescence and confocal microscopes, design-based stereology, and image preparation for scientific publication. A variety of microscopes equipped for stereology are available for use. Participants should bring examples of their material and problems for discussion. In addition to lectures, substantial time is devoted to “hands-on” practical sessions. Attendees participate in group discussion, where they can discuss their research applications and consult with the instructors.


NeuroStereology Workshop – An Introduction to Stereology for Neuroscientists

Organized by Professor Mark West
March 15-20, 2014
Marine Biological Laboratory
Woods hole, MA (USA)

Short Description

The goal of the workshop is to teach a small group of research scientists how to design, supervise, and critically evaluate stereological studies of the nervous system. Stereology is a methodology that provides meaningful quantitative descriptions of the geometry of three-dimensional structures from measurements that are made on two-dimensional images sampled from a structure of interest. The workshop will emphasize modern ”design based” stereology, which is characterized by the preparation and probing of tissue in such a manner that no assumptions about the size, shape, and orientation of the structures being quantified are necessary.

The target audience includes neuroscience research scientists working at the graduate student, post-doctoral, and senior scientists who are interested in the practical application of design based stereological methods. The number of participants will be limited to 30, to ensure robust faculty-student interaction.

Note: MBF has a policy of not promoting courses that are taught by commercially affiliated instructors. There are other stereology courses that are offered by organizations that use instructors with direct commercial interests in the products that are demonstrated during these courses. If you have a doubt, ask the instructor directly if they have a commercial affiliation with the products demonstrated at their course. Contact MBF if you have any questions about courses not listed here or about our policy.



Copyright MBF Bioscience 2014