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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Jan 9;93(1):475-8.

Activation of single whisker barrel in rat brain localized by functional magnetic resonance imaging.

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Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8043, USA.


The previously established cortical representation of rat whiskers in layer IV of the cortex contains distinct cylindrical columns of cellular aggregates, which are termed barrels and correlate in a one-to-one relation to whiskers on the contralateral rat face. In the present study, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the rat brain was used to map whisker barrel activation during mechanical up-down movement (+/- 2.5 mm amplitude at 8 Hz) of single/multiple whisker(s). Multislice gradient echo fMRI experiments were performed at 7 T with in-plane image resolution of 220 x 220 microns, slice thickness of 1 mm, and echo time of 16 ms. Highly significant (P < 0.001) and localized contralateral regions of activation were observed upon stimulation of single/multiple whisker(s). In all experiments (n = 10), the locations of activation relative to bregma and midline were highly correlated with the neuroanatomical position of the corresponding whisker barrels, and the results were reproducible intra- and interanimal. Our results indicate that fMRI based on blood oxygenation level-dependent image contrast has the sensitivity to depict activation of a single whisker barrel in the rat brain. This noninvasive technique will supplement existing methods in the study of rat barrel cortex and should be particularly useful for the long-term investigations of central nervous system in the same animal.

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