|Many human brain diseases are associated with disturbances in the structure and function of cortical synapses. Answering fundamental questions about the synaptic machinery in these disease states requires the ability to image and quantify small synaptic structures in tissue sections and to evaluate protein levels at these major sites of function. We developed a new automated segmentation imaging method specifically to answer such fundamental questions. The method takes advantage of advances in spinning disk confocal microscopy, and combines information from multiple iterations of a fluorescence intensity/morphological segmentation protocol to construct three-dimensional object masks of immunoreactive (IR) puncta. This new methodology is unique in that high- and low-fluorescing IR puncta are equally masked, allowing for quantification of the number of fluorescently-labeled puncta in tissue sections (panel). In
addition, the shape of the final object masks highly represents their corresponding original data. Thus, the object masks can be used to extract information about the IR puncta (e.g., average fluorescence intensity of proteins of interest). Importantly, the segmentation method presented can be easily adapted for use with most existing microscopy analysis packages.