A clearer view of the insect brain - combining bleaching with standard whole-mount immunocytochemistry allows confocal imaging of pigment-covered brain areas for 3D reconstruction

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In the study of insect neuroanatomy, three-dimensional (3D) reconstructions of neurons and neuropils have become a standard technique. As images have to be obtained from whole-mount brain preparations, pigmentation on the brain surface poses a serious challenge to imaging. In insects, this is a major problematic in the first visual neuropil of the optic lobe, the lamina, which is obstructed by the pigment of the retina as well as by the pigmented fenestration layer. This has prevented inclusion of this major processing center of the insect visual system into most neuroanatomical brain atlases and hinders imaging of neurons within the lamina by confocal microscopy. It has recently been shown that hydrogen peroxide bleaching is compatible with immunohistochemical labeling in insect brains, and we therefore developed a simple technique for removal of pigments on the surface of insect brains by chemical bleaching. We show that our technique enables imaging of the pigment obstructed regions of insect brains when combined with standard protocols for both anti-synapsin-labeled as well as neurobiotin-injected samples. This method can be combined with different fixation procedures, as well as different fluorophore excitation wavelengths without negative effects on staining quality. It can therefore serve as an effective addition to most standard histology protocols used in insect neuroanatomy.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology


  • whole-mount labeling, confocal imaging, lamina, pigment, bleaching
Original languageEnglish
Article number121
JournalFrontiers in Neuroanatomy
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch