Polarized light imaging (PLI) enables detecting the orientation of myelinated axon bundles in brain slices at microscopic resolution without histological staining. However, standard PLI requires labor-intensive procedures such as mounting brain cryosections on slide glasses. We developed an optical system that does not require a mounting procedure for PLI. Specifically, we developed an optical system to perform PLI in reflection mode (rPLI) instead of employing transmitted light as in standard PLI. We integrated this rPLI system with a conventional vibratome slicer whose cutting blade surface is a mirror. This combination allowed PLI measurements directly during the slicing procedure at room temperature. Thus, mounting procedure for PLI is not necessary. As a proof-of-concept experiment, a perfusion-fixed brain of a mouse was embedded in gelatin-containing agar and cut serially at 40~200 μm intervals. The slicing procedure was temporarily halted after each cut to capture the PLI images of the slice on the reflecting blade surface while the slice was still held up by the agar block. The orientation of the fiber bundle estimated with this method agreed with the results obtained from previous reports. Combination of a popular vibratome slicer and our rPLI system that uses versatile and inexpensive optical components would increase popularity of PLI and facilitates connectome studies at microscopic resolution. Research Highlights: Polarized light imaging (PLI) of brain slices was realized by using reflected light (rPLI) instead of transmitted light. The rPLI method allows detecting the myelinated fiber bundle orientation during slice preparation.
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