The Fourth Decade Of Modern Stereology 1991-2001

by Peter R. Mouton, Ph.D - Date: 2010-10-11 - Word Count: 398 Share This!

Modern stereology introduced an entirely new set of rules for quantification of biological objects in tissue sections. Many biologists acquired stereology training from comprehensive 3-4 day workshops held in conjunction with national and international meetings, including the Society For Neurosciences, European Society, and the bi-annual ISS meetings. As a result, stereology publications in the peer-review literature continued to grow in an exponential manner from the early 1960s through the 1990s,

Objections to New Stereology

Not surprisingly, resistance arose from old guard biologists who objected to the "new stereology" on several grounds, which contributed to the slow acceptance of these approaches during the last four decades. First, as usual in the case of progress, there was the inertia of tradition -- highly regarded papers used older, assumption- and model based approaches to the morphometric analysis of biological tissue. Many authors of these works simply did not wish to change. To use the analogy from baseball -- you don't change the line up when you get to the World Series.

A second reason for the slow conversion to new stereology was that, without consideration for the demonstrated accuracy of the new approaches over older methods, many biologists considered new stereology as too radical. The group of modern stereologists led by Profs Hans Gundersen of Denmark, Luis Cruz-Orive of Spain, and Adrian Baddeley of Australia argued that the older methods biased sampling approaches and Euclidean-based assumptions and models (e.g., "Assume a cell is a sphere…") should be rejected entirely. Their critics felt that this approach failed to follow the time-honored tradition of step-by-step progress built on the existing body of knowledge. In response, the stereologists contended that Euclidean-based methods simply did not apply to populations of arbitrary-shaped biological objects.

A third reason some biologists were slow to adopt the new stereology arose from confusion over the term bias, which has several different connotations. In the colloquial usage, bias refers to prejudice or predisposition. To stereologists, however, biased refers to the presence of systematic error in a method. When a method avoids bias in the form of faulty and non-verifiable assumptions and models, increased sampling of the reference space will cause mean estimates of the parameter to converge on the true mean value for the population. In order to avoid the controversy involving "biased vs. unbiased" data, many bio-stereologists now prefer the term design-based stereology to refer to the assumption- and model-free methods of modern stereology.

Related Tags: stereology, unbiased stereology, design based stereogy, stereology history, modern stereology, stereology workshop, new stereology, biased stereology, morphom

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