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Slicing Terminology

Directional Terms

directional terminology

Scientific Term:           
What it really means:
          Rostral / Anterior Head or front end
          Caudal / Posterior Tail or hind end
           Dorsal Toward the back
           Ventral Toward the belly
           Superior Above the midline
           Inferior Below the midline
           Lateral Away from the midline
           Medial Toward the midline
           Proximal Closer
           Distal Farther

 In order to explore the brain we first need to understand some vocabulary for describing the positions and locations of various structures in relation to other structures. The table to the right lists some common directional terminology.

Since the brain is three-dimensional, any point or structure in the brain can be identified on three planes: the horizontal plane, the sagittal plane, and the coronal plane. A horizontal section (or slice) of the brain separates the top from the bottom. A sagittal section separates left from right. The midsagittal plane equally divides the left and right hemispheres of the brain. A coronal section of the brain separates the front from the back. The images below show the three planes in which a brain can be sectioned.

In addition, there are four possible views of the brain: lateral, medial, dorsal, and ventral. Lateral is from the side; medial is towards the midline (often from a sagittal section); dorsal is looking from above; and ventral is looking from below.


Horizontal Plane                          Sagittal Plane                          Coronal Plane

        MRI horizontal slice                                   MRI sagittal slice                                  MRI coronal slice



Would you like to learn more about the specific structures in the brain, or would you rather start slicing?

click here to learn about structures in the brain                click here to start slicing



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