Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Stanford-led team validates, extends fMRI research on brain activity

17.05.2010
Like a motorist who knows that the "check engine" light indicates something important but ill-defined is happening, neuroscientists have relied heavily on an incompletely understood technology called functional magnetic resonance imaging to show them what the brain is doing when people respond to different stimuli.

The non-invasive technology offers a window into the physiology of human cognition and emotion, but — without a satisfying explanation of how some common fMRI signals are produced — the ability of researchers to draw conclusions has been limited.

Now a Stanford University-led team has solved the mystery, and in doing so has discovered a new way to make fMRI signals based on increased blood flow even more useful. Combined with optogenetics (a technology developed at Stanford that employs genes from microbes to allow neurons to be controlled with pulses of light), blood-flow fMRI can now be used to study the brain-wide impact of changes in neural circuitry, such as ones that may underlie many neurological and psychiatric diseases.

The team's research will appear May 16 in the online version of Nature.

A 'BOLD' finding

The study is the first to prove what neurologists could only hope was true: that fMRI signals based on elevated levels of oxygenated blood in specific parts of the brain are caused by an increase in the excitation of specific kinds of brain cells. For example, in the past researchers could only assume that when they showed subjects a picture of someone they knew, stronger fMRI signal in a part of the brain that possibly deals with face recognition was caused by the excitation of neurons, rather than some other factor.

These signal increases are measured using the blood oxygenation level-dependent, or BOLD, technique.

Because researchers have published more than 250,000 papers using or building upon the BOLD technique, clarifying its true meaning is very important, said senior author Karl Deisseroth, MD PhD, associate professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

"It was often assumed that a positive fMRI BOLD signal can represent increased activity of excitatory neurons, but this was never really known and, in fact, became much more controversial over the years," said Deisseroth. Now, the new study confirms those earlier assumptions.

The key experiment involved turning on genetically engineered excitatory neurons in an experimental group of rats in the presence of blue light delivered via a fiber optic cable. The researchers then anesthetized the rats and looked at their brains with fMRI. They found that exciting these defined neurons with the optogenetic light produced the same kind of signals that researchers see in traditional fMRI BOLD experiments — with the same complex patterns and timing. In the control group of rats, which were not genetically altered, no such signals occurred. This showed that true neural excitation indeed produces positive fMRI BOLD signals.

The broader brain

To see what else this new understanding of optogenetically-enhanced fMRI BOLD might yield, the team took the research a few steps further, led by co-first authors Remy Durand, a Stanford bioengineering graduate student, and Jin Hyung Lee, PhD, a University of California-Los Angeles assistant professor and alumna of Deisseroth's lab at Stanford. They found that they could use optogenetics to produce activity in specific kinds of cells in neural circuits, and then read out the far-reaching effects with fMRI BOLD over a substantial distance in the brain.

In one experiment, for example, the team could see how activity they stimulated in the thalamus, a key relay center deep in the brain, could affect circuits stretching into the somatosensory cortex, a surface brain region important in processing sensation.

"We can now ask what the true impact of a cell type is on global activity in the brain of a living mammal," Deisseroth said. "A key to scientific inquiry is developing tools that allow us to intervene and experiment with brain circuits — engineering a reversible gain or loss of function — rather than simple observation of correlations. This points to new approaches for understanding and treatment."

Other Stanford co-authors include graduate students Viviana Gradinaru and Lief Fenno; postdoctoral scholar Inbal Goshen, PhD; and research assistant Charu Ramakrishnan, PhD.

The authors are supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Keck, Snyder, Woo, Yu, McKnight and Coulter foundations, as well as by the CNC program at Stanford (funded by the president and provost of Stanford through the BioX and NeuroVentures Programs, and supported by the Stanford Institute for Neuro-Innovation and Translational Neurosciences).

More information about Stanford's Department of Bioengineering, which also supported the work, is available online at http://bioengineering.stanford.edu/. The department is jointly operated by the School of Medicine and the School of Engineering.

The Stanford University School of Medicine consistently ranks among the nation's top medical schools, integrating research, medical education, patient care and community service. For more news about the school, please visit http://mednews.stanford.edu. The medical school is part of Stanford Medicine, which includes Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. For information about all three, please visit http://stanfordmedicine.org/about/news.html.

David Orenstein | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.stanford.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

nachricht Urbanization to convert 300,000 km2 of prime croplands
27.12.2016 | Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) gGmbH

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>