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Nat Rev Neurosci. 2005 Jan;6(1):77-85.

Reading vascular changes in brain imaging: is dendritic calcium the key?

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Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Glostrup Hospital, DK-2600 Glostrup, Denmark.


A key goal in functional neuroimaging is to use signals that are related to local changes in metabolism and blood flow to track the neuronal correlates of mental activity. Recent findings indicate that the dendritic processing of excitatory synaptic inputs correlates more closely than the generation of spikes with brain imaging signals. The correlation is often nonlinear and context-sensitive, and cannot be generalized for every condition or brain region. The vascular signals are mainly produced by increases in intracellular calcium in neurons and possibly astrocytes, which activate important enzymes that produce vasodilators to generate increments in flow and the positive blood oxygen level dependent signal. Our understanding of the cellular mechanisms of functional imaging signals places constraints on the interpretation of the data.

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