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Front Neurosci. 2018 Apr 10;12:238. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00238. eCollection 2018.

The Relationship Between Dopamine Neurotransmitter Dynamics and the Blood-Oxygen-Level-Dependent (BOLD) Signal: A Review of Pharmacological Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

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Department of Radiology, College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, United States.
Department of Pharmaceutics and Brain Barriers Research Center, College of Pharmacy, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, United States.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Hanyang University, Seoul, South Korea.
Department of Neurologic Surgery, College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, United States.
Departments of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, United States.
Department of Neurology, College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, United States.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is widely used in investigations of normal cognition and brain disease and in various clinical applications. Pharmacological fMRI (pharma-fMRI) is a relatively new application, which is being used to elucidate the effects and mechanisms of pharmacological modulation of brain activity. Characterizing the effects of neuropharmacological agents on regional brain activity using fMRI is challenging because drugs modulate neuronal function in a wide variety of ways, including through receptor agonist, antagonist, and neurotransmitter reuptake blocker events. Here we review current knowledge on neurotransmitter-mediated blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) fMRI mechanisms as well as recently updated methodologies aimed at more fully describing the effects of neuropharmacologic agents on the BOLD signal. We limit our discussion to dopaminergic signaling as a useful lens through which to analyze and interpret neurochemical-mediated changes in the hemodynamic BOLD response. We also discuss the need for future studies that use multi-modal approaches to expand the understanding and application of pharma-fMRI.


BOLD; dopamine; fMRI; fast-scan cyclic voltammetry; pharma-fMRI

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