Implementation of spin-echo blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) functional MRI in birds

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  • Published: Oct 28, 2010
  • Channels: MRI Spectroscopy
thumbnail image: Implementation of spin-echo blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) functional MRI in birds
Implementation of spin-echo blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) functional MRI in birds

Colline Poirier, Marleen Verhoye, Tiny Boumans and Annemie Van der Linden

NMR in Biomedicine 2010, 23,1027-1032

This study shows that spin-echo functional MRI is a viable approach to investigate auditory processing in small songbirds. Its whole-brain coverage opens up new perspectives and should allow the investigation of regions beyond the primary and secondary auditory regions. Because of its relative acoustic quietness, the sequence used could also be relevant to the study of auditory processes in other small animals.

Abstract: The advent of high-field MRI systems has allowed the implementation of blood oxygen level-dependent functional MRI (BOLD fMRI) on small animals. An increased magnetic field improves the signal-to-noise ratio and thus allows an improvement in the spatial resolution. However, it also increases susceptibility artefacts in the commonly acquired gradient-echo images. This problem is particularly prominent in songbird MRI because of the presence of numerous air cavities in the skull of birds. These T2*-related image artefacts can be circumvented using spin-echo BOLD fMRI. In this article, we describe the implementation of spin-echo BOLD fMRI in zebra finches, a small songbird of 15?25 g, extensively studied in the behavioural neurosciences of birdsong. Because the main topics in this research domain are song perception and song learning, the protocol implemented used auditory stimuli. Despite the auditory nature of the stimuli and the weak contrast-to-noise ratio of spin-echo BOLD fMRI compared with gradient-echo BOLD fMRI, we succeeded in detecting statistically significant differences in BOLD responses triggered by different stimuli. This study shows that spin-echo BOLD fMRI is a viable approach for the investigation of auditory processing in the whole brain of small songbirds. It can also be applied to study auditory processing in other small animals, as well as other sensory modalities.

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