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Using fMRI to study brain development
Date:11/30/2007

ey could not detect fMRI signals, even though electrical recordings showed that the brain was responding to stimulation. The fMRI signals became both stronger and faster as the animals matured, until they approached adult levels by about 3 weeks of age. This corresponds approximately to 7-8 years in terms of human brain development.

By compensating for these age-related changes, the authors were able to track the development of connections between different touch-sensitive brain regions as the animals matured.

The researchers also investigated what molecular events might underlie the changing relationship between neural activity and the blood response. Their findings suggest that a key player is carbonic anhydrase (CA), a well-known enzyme that helps remove carbon dioxide from the blood. Age-related increases in CA activity corresponded to the changes in the fMRI signal, and drugs that block the activity of this enzyme in adult animals caused the fMRI signal to regress to that seen in younger animals. CA is an important target for drugs used to treat diverse conditions, including glaucoma, altitude sickness and epilepsy, so it will be interesting to determine whether such drugs alter the relationship between activity and blood flow in the adult human brain.

In the longer term, Jasanoff hopes to circumvent the difficulties of fMRI altogether, by developing new methods that will make it possible to visualize neural activity directly, rather than indirectly through its effect on blood flow.


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Contact: Charles Jennings
charlesj@mit.edu
617-324-3977
McGovern Institute for Brain Research
Source:Eurekalert

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