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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Oct 27;106(43):18390-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0905509106. Epub 2009 Oct 14.

Spatiotemporal precision and hemodynamic mechanism of optical point spreads in alert primates.

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Department of Neuroscience, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.


In functional brain imaging there is controversy over which hemodynamic signal best represents neural activity. Intrinsic signal optical imaging (ISOI) suggests that the best signal is the early darkening observed at wavelengths absorbed preferentially by deoxyhemoglobin (HbR). It is assumed that this darkening or "initial dip" reports local conversion of oxyhemoglobin (HbO) to HbR, i.e., oxygen consumption caused by local neural activity, thus giving the most specific measure of such activity. The blood volume signal, by contrast, is believed to be more delayed and less specific. Here, we used multiwavelength ISOI to simultaneously map oxygenation and blood volume [i.e., total hemoglobin (HbT)] in primary visual cortex (V1) of the alert macaque. We found that the hemodynamic "point spread," i.e., impulse response to a minimal visual stimulus, was as rapid and retinotopically specific when imaged by using blood volume as when using the initial dip. Quantitative separation of the imaged signal into HbR, HbO, and HbT showed, moreover, that the initial dip was dominated by a fast local increase in HbT, with no increase in HbR. We found only a delayed HbR decrease that was broader in retinotopic spread than HbO or HbT. Further, we show that the multiphasic time course of typical ISOI signals and the strength of the initial dip may reflect the temporal interplay of monophasic HbO, HbR, and HbT signals. Characterizing the hemodynamic response is important for understanding neurovascular coupling and elucidating the physiological basis of imaging techniques such as fMRI.

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