To fully understand brain function, one must look beyond the level of a single neuron. By elucidating the spatial properties of the columnar and laminar functional architectures, information regarding the neural processing in the brain can be gained. To map these fine functional structures noninvasively and repeatedly, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can be employed. In this article the basic principles of fMRI are introduced, including specific hardware requirements and the equipment necessary for animal magnetic resonance research. Since fMRI measures a change in secondary hemodynamic responses induced by neural activity, it is critical to understand the principles and potential pitfalls of fMRI techniques. Thus, the underlying physics of conventional blood oxygenation, cerebral blood flow, and cerebral blood volume-based fMRI techniques are extensively discussed. Tissue-specific signal change is close to the site of neural activity, while signals from large vessels can be distant from the actual active site. Thus, methods to minimize large vessel contributions and to maximize tissue signals are described. The fundamental limitation of fMRI spatial resolution is the intrinsic hemodynamic response. Based on our high-resolution fMRI studies, the hemodynamic response is regulated at submillimeter functional domains and thus spatial resolution can be achieved to an order of 100 μm. Since hemodynamic responses are sluggish, it is difficult to obtain very high temporal resolution. By using an approach with multiple experiments with different stimulus conditions, temporal resolution can be improved on the order of 100 ms. With current fMRI technologies, submillimeter columnar- and laminar-specific specific functional images can be obtained from animal brains.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NS38295, NS40719, and NS44589), the McKnight Foundation, and the Keck Foundation.
- Blood oxygenation level dependent
- Cerebral blood flow
- Cerebral blood volume
- Cortical column
- Cortical lamina
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging
- Functional mapping