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Neuroimage. 2012 Jul 2;61(3):517-24. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.04.009. Epub 2012 Apr 12.

Quantitative estimates of stimulation-induced perfusion response using two-photon fluorescence microscopy of cortical microvascular networks.

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  • 1Imaging Research, Sunnybrook Research Institute, 2075 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, ON, Canada M4N 3M5.


Functional hyperemia, or the increase in focal perfusion elicited by neuronal activation, is one of the primary functions of the neurovascular unit and a hallmark of healthy brain functioning. While much is known about the hemodynamics on the millimeter to tenths of millimeter-scale accessible by MRI, there is a paucity of quantitative data on the micrometer-scale changes in perfusion in response to functional stimulation. We present a novel methodology for quantification of perfusion and intravascular flow across the 3D microvascular network in the rat somatosensory cortex using two-photon fluorescence microscopy (2PFM). For approximately 96% of responding microvessels in the forelimb representation of the primary somatosensory cortex, brief (~2s) forepaw stimulation resulted in an increase of perfusion 20±4% (mean±sem). The perfusion levels associated with the remaining 4% of the responding microvessels decreased 10±9% upon stimulation. Vessels irrigating regions of lower vascular density were found to exhibit higher flow (p<0.02), supporting the notion that local vascular morphology and hemodynamics reflect the metabolic needs of the surrounding parenchyma. High dispersion (~77%) in perfusion levels suggests high spatial variation in tissue susceptibility to hypoxia. The current methodology enables quantification of absolute perfusion associated with individual vessels of the cortical microvascular bed and its changes in response to functional stimulation and thereby provides an important tool for studying the cellular mechanisms of functional hyperemia, the spatial specificity of perfusion response to functional stimulation, and, broadly, the micrometer-scale relationship between vascular morphology and function in health and disease.

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