Insulin reduces the BOLD response but is without effect on the VEP during presentation of a visual task in humans

Elizabeth R. Seaquist, Wei Chen, Luke E. Benedict, Kamil Ugurbil, Jae Hwan Kwag, Xiao Hong Zhu, Charles A. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) based on blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) contrast has become an invaluable tool in the assessment of in vivo neuronal activation. Quantification of the BOLD response is determined by the hemodynamic and metabolic changes that occur in response to brain stimulation. However, these changes may vary by changes in insulin, a hormone known to be vasoactive in some tissues. To determine if insulin has an effect on fMRI, we measured the BOLD response to a visual stimulus in five normal volunteers in which insulin was first suppressed and then brought to a high physiological concentration. In addition, we also examined the effect of insulin on activation of the visual cortex as measured by the visual-evoked potential (VEP). We found that the BOLD response measured in the presence of insulin (serum insulin=236±29 pmol/L) was significantly lower (P<0.001) than that measured in its absence (serum insulin=8±2 pmol/L). Insulin was without effect on P100 amplitude or latency acquired in the presence or absence of insulin in 28 subjects using the same stimulus as that used for the fMRI experiments. Our observations suggest that insulin may have effects on cerebral blood flow and/or metabolism that affect the BOLD signal that are independent of its effects on neuronal activation identified by event related potentials (ERP). These findings highlight the complexity that must be considered when interpreting differences in fMRI responses between groups of subjects that differ in insulin concentration and/or insulin sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-160
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 5 2007


  • Evoked response potentials
  • Insulin
  • Neuronal activation
  • fMRI


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