Early and Late Recognition

Each observer is different when it comes to doing stereological research. The reason for this is the way that the researchers interpret what they see. One of the basic issues in recognition is deciding whether or not something is a part of the population being counted. A cell or structure seen in the microscope is something to count or something not to count. After a decision is reached about whether or not something should be counted, comes the issue about the intersection of the probes and the item of interest.

The easiest decision is whether or not an object is intersected by a line. A counting frame is composed of 2 types of lines. The green or dashed lines are the inclusion lines and the red or solid lines are the exclusion lines. Touching a line seems to be a simple rule. In fact, there are many cases that becomes gray issues. Whatever decision is made in one place has to be used at all times. The decision that a certain fuzzy condition is a touch or not needs to be used in all similar conditions. The same conditions need to be used for both the inclusion and exclusion lines. If the rules are not applied in a consistent manner then a bias is introduced. This bias may be quite small if the counting frame is small. The bias becomes more pronounced as the counting frame decreases in size.

The most difficult decision is the decision about the z-position of an object. Some observers tend to be early recognizers. The tendency is to see something in focus before others. The idea is that the researcher is focusing through the material and decides that something is in focus before other people. A late recognizer is someone that decides later than other people that an object is in focus. Near the top of the optical disector an early recognizer might say that a cell is not counted, while a later recognizer might decide that the cell is indeed counted. Problems occur when late and early recognition are used consistently across the height of the disector.

If someone uses early recognition at the top of an optical disector and late recognition near the bottom of the optical disector it is as if the optical disector is smaller than it is. The result is that fewer counts are made and the population is underestimated. The opposite can happen as well if someone uses late recognition at the top and early recognition at the bottom, then the result is that more cells are accepted and an over projection occurs.

It does not matter if a person is an early or late recognizer. What matters is being consistent in the application of counting rules regardless of the position where counts are made.

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