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Stanford-led team validates, extends fMRI research on brain activity
Date:5/16/2010

portant, said senior author Karl Deisseroth, MD PhD, associate professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

"It was often assumed that a positive fMRI BOLD signal can represent increased activity of excitatory neurons, but this was never really known and, in fact, became much more controversial over the years," said Deisseroth. Now, the new study confirms those earlier assumptions.

The key experiment involved turning on genetically engineered excitatory neurons in an experimental group of rats in the presence of blue light delivered via a fiber optic cable. The researchers then anesthetized the rats and looked at their brains with fMRI. They found that exciting these defined neurons with the optogenetic light produced the same kind of signals that researchers see in traditional fMRI BOLD experiments with the same complex patterns and timing. In the control group of rats, which were not genetically altered, no such signals occurred. This showed that true neural excitation indeed produces positive fMRI BOLD signals.

The broader brain

To see what else this new understanding of optogenetically-enhanced fMRI BOLD might yield, the team took the research a few steps further, led by co-first authors Remy Durand, a Stanford bioengineering graduate student, and Jin Hyung Lee, PhD, a University of California-Los Angeles assistant professor and alumna of Deisseroth's lab at Stanford. They found that they could use optogenetics to produce activity in specific kinds of cells in neural circuits, and then read out the far-reaching effects with fMRI BOLD over a substantial distance in the brain.

In one experiment, for example, the team could see how activity they stimulated in the thalamus, a key relay center deep in the brain, could affect circuits stretching into the somatosensory cortex, a surface brain region important in processing sensation.

"We can now ask what the true impact of a cell ty
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Contact: David Orenstein
davidjo@stanford.edu
650-736-2245
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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