JoVE Logo
Faculty Resource Center

Sign In





Representative Results






Extraction and Dissection of the Domesticated Pig Brain

Published: April 25th, 2021



1Neuroscience Program, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 3Division of Nutritional Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This protocol details the technique for removal of the pig brain in its entirety and dissection of several brain regions commonly studied in neuroscience.

Use of the pig as a preclinical and translatable animal model has been well-documented and accepted by research fields investigating cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal systems, and nutrition, and the pig is increasingly being used as a large animal model in neuroscience. Furthermore, the pig is an accepted model to study neurodevelopment as it displays brain growth and development patterns similar to what occurs in humans. As a less common animal model in neuroscience, surgical and dissection procedures on pigs may not be as familiar or well-practiced among researchers. Therefore, a standardized visual protocol detailing consistent extraction and dissection methods may prove valuable for researchers working with the pig. The following video showcases a technique to remove the pig brain while keeping the cortex and brainstem intact and reviews methods to dissect several commonly investigated brain regions including the brainstem, cerebellum, midbrain, hippocampus, striatum, thalamus, and medial prefrontal cortex. The purpose of this video is to provide researchers with the tools and knowledge necessary to consistently perform a brain extraction and dissection on the four-week-old pig.

The pig has been well documented and accepted as a translatable animal model for research in cardiovascular systems1, gastrointestinal systems2, nutrition3,4, diabetes5, toxicology6, and surgical techniques7. Use of the pig in neuroscience is beginning to increase, as PubMed searches for the keywords "swine brain animal model" result in four-times more results from 1996-2005 than the preceding 10 year period8, and even more results at present. A primary reason ....

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Procedures involving animal subjects have been approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

NOTE: Prior to euthanasia, the pig was anesthetized via intramuscular injection with a combination of telazol:ketamine:xylazine (50.0 mg of tiletamine HCl plus 50.0 mg of zolazepam HCl reconstituted with 2.50 mL of ketamine HCl (100 g/L) and 2.50 mL of xylazine (100 g/L) and administered at 0.06 mg/kg BW). Once anesthetized, the pi.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

This section describes examples of results obtained after correct extraction and dissection of a 4-week-old pig brain. Figure 1 outlines the shape of each brain region for use as a guide during dissection. Part of the brainstem may remain in the skull after removal of the cerebellum (Figure 1B). This can be removed while isolating the desired region of the cerebellum. Table 1 displays the average weight (mean ± standard error of the mean) f.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

The techniques described herein were designed for pigs approximately 4 weeks of age. It is critical to perform these steps immediately after the pig has been humanely euthanized to ensure the integrity of brain tissue structure is maintained, especially when considering subsequent biochemical assays. It is helpful to use an atlas or fiber16 dissection guides when first learning the techniques. It is recommended that the experimenter practice several brain extractions and dissections prior to obtai.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

The authors would like to acknowledge Jim Knoblauch and Martin-Booth Hodges of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Information Technology and Communication Services for their expertise in shooting, recording, and editing audio and video.


Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Name Company Catalog Number Comments
#22 Scalpel Blades for #4 Handles Ted Pella, inc. 549-4S-22
11 1/2" Satterlee Bone Saw Leica Biosystems 38DI13425
5 1/2" Skull Breaker with Chisel End (Meat Hook) Leica Biosystems 38DI37636
5-inch Heavy Duty Workshop Bench Vise Pony 29050
Butcher Knife 25cm Victorinox 5.7403.25 Sharpen before use
CM40 Light Duty Drop Forged C Clamps Bessey 00655BC3120
Diamond Hone Knife Shaper Chef’s Choice 436-3
Shandon Stainless-Steel Scalpel Blade Handle #4 ThermoScientific 5334
Tissue Forceps Henry Schein 101-5132
Vinyl Dissecting pad Carolina 629006

  1. Hughes, H. C. Swine in cardiovascular research. Laboratory Animal Science. 36 (4), 348-350 (1986).
  2. Yen, J. Anatomy of the Digestive System and Nutritional Physiology. Biology of the Domestic Pig. , 31-63 (2001).
  3. Pond, W. G. Of Pigs and People. Swine Nutrition. , 3-24 (2001).
  4. Odle, J., Lin, X., Jacobi, S. K., Kim, S. W., Stahl, C. H. The Suckling Piglet as an Agrimedical Model for the Study of Pediatric Nutrition and Metabolism. Annual Review of Animal Biosciences. 2 (1), 419-444 (2014).
  5. Larsen, M. O., Rolin, B. Use of the Göttingen minipig as a model of diabetes, with special focus on type 1 diabetes research. ILAR Journal. 45 (3), 303-313 (2004).
  6. Lehmann, H. The minipig in general toxicology. Scandinavian Journal of Laboratory Animal Science. 25, 59-62 (1998).
  7. Richer, J., et al. Sacrococcygeal and transsacral epidural anesthesia in the laboratory pig. Surgical Radiologic Anatomy. 20, 431-435 (1998).
  8. Lind, N. M., et al. The use of pigs in neuroscience: Modeling brain disorders. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. 31 (5), 728-751 (2007).
  9. Sauleau, P., Lapouble, E., Val-Laillet, D., Malbert, C. -. H. The pig model in brain imaging and neurosurgery. Animal. 3 (8), 1138-1151 (2009).
  10. Dobbing, J., Sands, J. Comparative aspects of the brain growth spurt. Early Human Development. 311, 79-83 (1979).
  11. Aurich, L. A., et al. Microsurgical training model with nonliving swine head. Alternative for neurosurgical education. Acta Cirurgica Brasileira. 29 (6), 405-409 (2014).
  12. Bassi, T., Rohrs, E., Fernandez, K., Ornowska, M., Reynolds, C. S. Direct brain excision: An easier method to harvest the pig's brain. Interdisciplinary Neurosurgery. 14, 37-38 (2018).
  13. Bjarkam, C. R., et al. Exposure of the pig CNS for histological analysis: A manual for decapitation, skull opening, and brain removal. Journal of Visualized Experiments. 122, e55511 (2017).
  14. Pascalau, R., Szabo, B. Fibre dissection and sectional study of the major porcine cerebral white matter tracts. Anatomia, Histologia, Embryologia. 46, 378-390 (2017).
  15. McFadden, W. C., et al. Perfusion fixation in brain banking: a systematic review. Acta Neuropathologica Communications. 7, 146 (2019).
  16. Félix, B., et al. Stereotaxic atlas of the pig brain. Brain Research Bulletin. 49, 1 (1999).

This article has been published

Video Coming Soon

JoVE Logo


Terms of Use





Copyright © 2024 MyJoVE Corporation. All rights reserved