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Annu Rev Neurosci. 2006;29:449-76.

Brain work and brain imaging.

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Department of Radiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


Functional brain imaging with positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging has been used extensively to map regional changes in brain activity. The signal used by both techniques is based on changes in local circulation and metabolism (brain work). Our understanding of the cell biology of these changes has progressed greatly in the past decade. New insights have emerged on the role of astrocytes in signal transduction as has an appreciation of the unique contribution of aerobic glycolysis to brain energy metabolism. Likewise our understanding of the neurophysiologic processes responsible for imaging signals has progressed from an assumption that spiking activity (output) of neurons is most relevant to one focused on their input. Finally, neuroimaging, with its unique metabolic perspective, has alerted us to the ongoing and costly intrinsic activity within brain systems that most likely represents the largest fraction of the brain's functional activity.

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