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BOLD functional MRI in disease and pharmacological studies: room for improvement?

Iannetti, G. D. and Wise, Richard Geoffrey 2007. BOLD functional MRI in disease and pharmacological studies: room for improvement? Magnetic Resonance Imaging 25 (6) , pp. 978-988. 10.1016/j.mri.2007.03.018

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In the past decade the use of blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) fMRI to investigate the effect of diseases and pharmacological agents on brain activity has increased greatly. BOLD fMRI does not measure neural activity directly, but relies on a cascade of physiological events linking neural activity to the generation of MRI signal. However, most of the disease and pharmacological studies performed so far have interpreted changes in BOLD fMRI as “brain activation,” ignoring the potential confounds that can arise through drug- or disease-induced modulation of events downstream of the neural activity. This issue is especially serious in diseases (like multiple sclerosis, brain tumours and stroke) and drugs (like anaesthetics or those with a vascular action) that are known to influence these physiological events. Here we provide evidence that, to extract meaningful information on brain activity in patient and pharmacological BOLD fMRI studies, it is important to identify, characterise and possibly correct these influences that potentially confound the results. We suggest a series of experimental measures to improve the interpretability of BOLD fMRI studies. We have ranked these according to their potential information and current practical feasibility. First-line, necessary improvements consist of (1) the inclusion of one or more control tasks, and (2) the recording of physiological parameters during scanning and subsequent correction of possible between-group differences. Second-line, highly recommended importants aim to make the results of a patient or drug BOLD study more interpretable and include the assessment of (1) baseline brain perfusion, (2) vascular reactivity, (3) the inclusion of stimulus-related perfusion fMRI and (4) the recording of electrophysiological responses to the stimulus of interest. Finally, third-line, desirable improvements consist of the inclusion of (1) simultaneous EEG–fMRI, (2) cerebral blood volume and (3) rate of metabolic oxygen consumption measurements and, when relevant, (4) animal studies investigating signalling between neural cells and blood vessels.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute (NMHRI)
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Uncontrolled Keywords: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); Blood oxygen level-dependent contrast (BOLD); Disease; Pharmacological fMRI; Electroencephalography (EEG); Physiological confounds
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0730-725X
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 04:05

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