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Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 8;7:41583. doi: 10.1038/srep41583.

Volumetric Spatial Correlations of Neurovascular Coupling Studied using Single Pulse Opto-fMRI.

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  • 1UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging, Division of Medicine, University College London, London, UK.
  • 2Centre for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Neuroscience, Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology, University College London, London, UK.
  • 3Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.


Neurovascular coupling describes the link between neuronal activity and cerebral blood flow. This relationship has been the subject of intense scrutiny, with most previous work seeking to understand temporal correlations that describe neurovascular coupling. However, to date, the study of spatial correlations has been limited to two-dimensional mapping of neuronal or vascular derived signals emanating from the brain's surface, using optical imaging techniques. Here, we investigate spatial correlations of neurovascular coupling in three dimensions, by applying a single 10 ms pulse of light to trigger optogenetic activation of cortical neurons transduced to express channelrhodopsin2, with concurrent fMRI. We estimated the spatial extent of increased neuronal activity using a model that takes into the account the scattering and absorption of blue light in brain tissue together with the relative density of channelrhodopsin2 expression across cortical layers. This method allows precise modulation of the volume of activated tissue in the cerebral cortex with concurrent three-dimensional mapping of functional hyperemia. Single pulse opto-fMRI minimizes adaptation, avoids heating artefacts and enables confined recruitment of the neuronal activity. Using this novel method, we present evidence for direct proportionality of volumetric spatial neurovascular coupling in the cerebral cortex.

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